Obese children 9 to 11 should be tested for fatty liver disease; almost 20 percent of Kentucky’s children are obese

Obese children from 9 to 11 should be screened for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to new guidelines endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fatty liver disease is not a single disease process, but a range of conditions. It affects up to 38 percent of obese children and adolescents, and is commonly associated with other obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and sleep apnea, says a news release from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

“It has rapidly evolved into the most common liver disease seen in the pediatric population and is a management challenge for general pediatric practitioners, subspecialists and for health systems,” experts said in a articlein the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

Children with fatty liver disease often have no symptoms. The article’s authors write that early screening is important because it can detect the condition before “the onset of irreversible, end-stage liver disease.”

Almost 20 percent of Kentucky’s children 10 to 17 are considered obese, the eighth highest rate in the nation, according to the State of Obesity report. The state ranks third for obese high-school-aged children, also at nearly 20 percent.

Screening requires a blood test; if it comes back positive, the child will need to undergo additional tests to determine if fat deposits are present in the liver and to rule out other conditions.

Treatment of fatty liver disease improves the child’s diet, avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages and increasing physical activity. No medicines are available to treat the disease.

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