Even with a wide range of conditions diagnosed as liver disease, the stages and damage to the organ are consistent. From the beginning of the condition to advanced liver disease, the damage progresses in these four stages:
Stage 1: Initial Stage of Liver Disease
With any condition causing liver disease, the first step includes inflammation of the liver or bile duct. This inflammation causes abdominal pain as the body tries to fight the infection or irritation. If left untreated, this inflammation can cause damage to the liver, making the condition worse. In this beginning stage, unlike some conditions in advanced liver disease, the symptoms and inflammation is treatable to prevent the second step of the disease.
Stage 2: Fibrosis of the Liver
Many times, symptoms of liver disease aren’t present until this stage or the next. In the fibrosis stage, damage or scarring from the first stage begins to block the normal blood flow of the liver. In this stage, the liver isn’t functioning correctly, but through treatment, it may be able to heal and prevent any further progression of the disease.
Stage 3: Cirrhosis of the Liver
A chronic condition, cirrhosis of the liver creates permanent scarring that blocks the blood flow. This dangerous stage causes other serious conditions and symptoms that increase the severity of the liver disease and is recognized as one of the leading causes of death in the US. For this stage of the disease, doctors focus treatment on managing the symptoms in order to prevent the most advanced liver disease stage.
Stage 4: Liver Failure and Advanced Liver Disease
In the final stage of the disease, liver failure signals the end of all normal liver function. The patient now requires immediate medical attention to prevent death. Symptoms of liver failure include vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue as well as the symptoms from stage 3. While the progression from cirrhosis to failure can take years, the damage is irreversible and leads to eventual death.
The key to treating liver disease is to diagnose the condition as early as possible. If you experience any of the symptoms in these stages, seek medical help immediately.