New technology helping treat fatty liver disease

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LAKEWOOD RANCH- Fatty Liver Disease is a leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States, and people might not even know if they are suffering from it.

Karen Fricke was undergoing screenings for other medical conditions when doctors noticed something off with her liver enzymes, and discovered she had Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

“I was very surprised,” Fricke said. “Because I don’t have fluid in your abdomen, my feet aren’t swollen, I don’t drink I never have, so yes I was really shocked.”

Dr. Guy Neff says she’s one of 40 to 50 million people with the condition.

“The vast majority of these patients,” Dr. Neff said. “Are asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms, they may have a vague right upper quadrant pain, they may notice some sleep wake issues, maybe some pruritus, maybe some itching,”

Dr. Neff says more patients should be getting screened.

“You’re looking at anyone that has adult type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Neff said. “Men typically over the age of 50, anyone with a BMI over 30, women with hyperthyroidism.”

New technology like the Fibroscan machine is helping them find damage from fatty liver disease quicker, and determine the best course of treatment.

“It’s important for us to make sure we can find the patient that has fatty liver disease with inflammation we call that NASH,” Dr. Neff said. “If they have that we want to make sure they’re in the right trial, that we can help them.”

Dr. Neff says Fatty Liver is the second fastest growing research field behind cancer with hundreds of trials for patients, and people are seeing results.

“The patient may see a better control of their blood sugars,” Dr. Neff said. “They have more energy, they feel better, and they sleep better, these types of things.”

These trial drugs also have less harmful side-effects.

“I’ve worked in many other fields, cancer, transplant, Hep C, Heb B,” Dr. Guy Neff said. “Where patients were put on medications to control their disease, but were sick the entire time they were on it, from nausea, from vomiting, we do not see that with these medicines at all.”

Karen Fricke is hoping new treatments can help her avoid a transplant.

“They say my liver actually is quite in the end stage,” Fricke said. “Which I’m shocked, and they say that maybe these trial drugs can help me stay where I am now or get better.”

In addition to trial drugs, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise can help improve fatty liver disease.

Florida Research Institute can provide you with more information on fatty liver disease and provide screening information, more information is at their website.

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at samantha.sonner@snntv.com.