What are the stages of liver damage? (With Images)

Various stages of liver disease: hepatic steatosis, liver fibrosis, and liver cirrhosis.

There are four stages of liver damage known as fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Although liver damage is reversible in the early stages, the changes in cirrhosis are not. Fibrosis and cirrhosis are sometimes considered as a single stage, making up three main stages in total. Most of the time, liver damage is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, although so-called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) progresses in similar stages. NAFLD is associated with obesity and is becoming more common.

The human liver is an organ from which a section can be removed from a living person.

Symptoms may not be noticeable in the early stages of liver damage. In the first stage, fatty liver, abnormally large amounts of fat accumulate inside liver cells. When this is caused by alcohol, fat can build up after just a few days of heavy drinking. Other causes of liver damage, such as medications, a condition called fatty liver of pregnancy, and NAFLD, cause very similar changes. When alcohol is the cause, stopping drinking reverses the problem within a few weeks.

Because the liver filters toxins and waste from the blood, if the organ is not working properly, a person can become seriously ill.

If the fatty deposits of fatty liver become severe, people may experience symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, and weakness. Liver damage can progress to the next stage, hepatitis, where the liver becomes inflamed. In alcoholic hepatitis, there may be no symptoms, but problems such as jaundice, pain, nausea, and tiredness may occur. Occasionally, sudden heavy drinking can cause severe hepatitis and liver failure, followed by coma and death. This can occur even if the person has not yet developed the final stages of liver damage.

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Drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver.

Fibrosis, the third stage, is the process of scar formation. Scars can gradually form in the liver, causing cells to die and reducing the blood supply to the liver. As long as there are enough liver cells, the liver continues to function. Eventually, cirrhosis develops, where normal liver tissue is replaced by lumps known as nodules. The liver no longer functions properly and the person may experience a number of symptoms, including jaundice, pain in a swollen abdomen, weight loss, and personality changes.

Liver damage can be caused by long-term use of illicit drugs.

Treatment methods vary depending on the different stages of liver damage and the underlying cause. Quitting alcohol or losing weight can reverse some cases of fatty liver and hepatitis. Severe hepatitis may require intensive care in hospital, while cirrhosis is incurable and a liver transplant may be necessary. It typically takes several years for people to progress from asymptomatic liver disease to end-stage liver disease, so there may be many opportunities for reversal.

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