5 stages of liver diseases that you must know about

Published on: 25 January 2022, 20:31 pm IST

Liver diseases are becoming rampant due to lifestyle and dietary habits. Know all about its causes and stages, and do all that it takes to prevent damage.  

liver problem
Your liver needs TLC. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Liver is the largest organ in the human body that performs almost 500 various vital functions. These functions also involve filtration of blood and waste, breaking down harmful substances like drugs and alcohol, and producing bile for the digestion process.

Classified as part of the digestive system, the liver is the only solid organ that can regenerate itself. With the fast-forward lifestyle and consumption of alcohol in modern society, chronic conditions like liver diseases have increased over the years. The Lancet report on Gastroenterology & Hepatology confirms the global burden of the diseases and increased death rates along with disabilities. Since the liver is a complex organ, the diseases related to it can even be life-threatening.

Liver failure can be categorized as:

* Acute liver failure
* Chronic liver failure

Causes of Acute liver failure

* Genetic condition
* Viral infection or swelling in the liver
* Drug overdose
* Hepatitis
* Vascular diseases
* Rare metabolic diseases
* Disruption in blood flow

Causes of Chronic liver failure

Chronic liver failure is the gradual beginning of end-stage liver failure generally caused by excess consumption of alcohol. Chronic liver failure can be defined as alcohol-related liver disease (Cirrhosis) & nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (Fibrosis of the liver).

One of the leading causes of death and morbidity globally, Liver Cirrhosis claims the lives of millions of people and is estimated to increase over the years if not managed properly.

liver problems
Don’t ignore when your liver calls for help. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Stages of liver diseases

1. Inflammation

The early stage of liver disease is a natural immune response that causes inflammation in the liver. The essential response to fight against viral infection makes the liver enlarged due to swelling, and the person starts experiencing pain in the upper abdominal region. At this stage, the liver tries to repair the damaged cells and heal itself to restore its functioning.

Inflammation is a curable liver disease. However, if the inflammation increases, you might be at risk of hepatitis, which will disrupt the repair cycle of inflammation.

2. Scarring

When liver disease enters in the continuous inflammation stage (hepatitis), the liver tries non-stop to repair the cells forming scar tissues and enlarging the complex organ. This condition is known as fibrosis, which interrupts the blood flow causing more scarring on the liver.

Fibrosis in the initial stage may show mild symptoms, but as it progresses, all the healthy tissues of the liver get replaced with severe scarring. Although the condition is curable with medications, due to lack of symptoms, and negligence it can turn into cirrhosis and liver cancer.

3. Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis or the final stage of fibrosis is permanent damage of the liver that has no treatment. Making necessary lifestyle changes, medications, quitting alcohol, fatty food, and health support can help you manage the symptoms from getting more destructive and advancing towards liver failure.

liver problrms
Your liver’s health is in your hands! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. End-stage liver failure

The end-stage of liver failure can be acute liver failure or chronic liver failure. Although it takes a long time to reach the end-stage liver failure, it is often caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The end-stage liver failure affects the mental and physical health of the patient, and the person may experience symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, confusion, and loss of appetite. Eng-stage live failure (ESLD) is fatal and can only be treated through a liver transplant.

5. Liver Cancer

The human body can develop any type of cancer without even showing symptoms. Therefore, some experts do not consider Liver cancer as a stage of liver failure as it can develop at any time.
A person diagnosed with advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis should be more careful and undergo regular screening for liver cancer.

The last word

Liver failure is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, but depending on the situation and proper treatment, there are possibilities to reverse liver disease.Antiviral medications are effective in the initial stages of hepatitis infection, proper lifestyle changes, quitting alcohol, medications, getting vaccinated, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you minimize the diseases from getting worse. People with extreme conditions can rely on regular dialysis and liver transplant to fight against this catastrophic disease.

Dr. Anukalp Prakash Dr. Anukalp Prakash

Department of Gastroenterology at the CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon

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