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Millions of People Have This 'Silent' Disease—and They Don’t Even Know It

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 7/11/2017 Brooke Nelson

© Magic-mine/Shutterstock A staggering 16 million Americans live with a scary disease right this second. Those with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity have a higher risk of developing it. It’s tough to find and even tougher to treat. But here’s the kicker: Most people have never even heard of it.

It’s called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH for short. A type of fatty liver disease, it is predicted to surpass hepatitis as the biggest reason for liver transplants by 2020. (By the way, you might want to check up on the signs you have fatty liver disease.)

Why have doctors and patients ignored this dangerous disease for so long? 'It’s because they didn’t see it,' Mark Pruzanski, CEO of Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a company that’s focused on treatments for liver diseases including NASH, told Business Insider.

Video: Coffee may prevent liver disease (by Wochit News)

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Symptoms are scarcely seen in patients with early stages of NASH. To test for it, you need to get a liver biopsy, which requires removing cells from your liver using a small needle. Even then, it might be too late; the disease often leads to problems like liver failure, and no treatments currently exist. These are the silent signs your body might be in big trouble.

There’s good news, though! You can prevent NASH right now by losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight and diet. Plus, doctors and pharmaceutical companies are pounding the pavement to develop a treatment. They currently have a test drug in the works, with an expected approval date in 2019.

If you’re a diabetic who needs to lose weight, you may have a higher risk for NASH—but you can try this 2-day diabetes diet to stop it in its tracks.

Your eyes turn yellow: 'Yellow eyes are a sign your liver isn’t doing very well and is probably the most specific sign of liver disease,' says Carlos Romero-Marrero, MD, a hepatologist at Cleveland Clinic. A yellow colored substance called bilirubin is usually broken down by the liver so it can be removed from the body, but when the liver is struggling it can cause bilirubin to build up, leading to yellowing of the whites of the eyes. 9 Signs Your Liver Is In Big Trouble
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