Treatment for NAFLD & NASH in Children

How do doctors treat NAFLD and NASH in children?

Doctors recommend that children who are overweight or obese lose weight to treat NAFLD and NASH. Weight loss is the most effective way to reduce fat in the liver; inflammation; and fibrosis, or scarring. Doctors may suggest that young children try to maintain their weight as their height increases. Most important is to avoid further weight gain.

To manage weight and help improve NAFLD, you can help your child

  • improve healthy eating habits
  • avoid drinking beverages that have added sugar
  • avoid “fast foods” high in sugar, starch, and fat
  • be more physically active

You can also help your child by being a role model in both healthy eating and physical activity.

No medicines have been approved to treat NAFLD and NASH in children. Researchers are studying medicines that may improve these conditions.

A study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ NASH Clinical Research Network found that treatment with vitamin E may improve NASH in some children.4 Researchers are still studying whether vitamin E is safe and effective as a possible treatment for NASH in children. Children should not take vitamin E without talking with a doctor first.

For safety reasons, talk with your child’s doctor before your child uses dietary supplements—such as mixtures of vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicines—or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. Some herbal remedies can actually damage a child’s liver.

A young girl who is overweight or obese sliding down a playground slide.
Doctors recommend that children who are overweight or obese gradually lose weight to treat NAFLD and NASH.

How do doctors treat the complications of NASH?

If NASH leads to cirrhosis, doctors can treat the health problems caused by cirrhosis with medicines, operations, and other medical procedures. If cirrhosis leads to liver failure, a child may need a liver transplant.

How can parents and caretakers help prevent NAFLD and NASH in children?

Making sure that a child eats a healthy diet, limits portion sizes, and maintains a healthy weight can help prevent NAFLD and NASH.

References

November 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, M.D., University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine