What Are the Four Stages of Cirrhosis of the Liver?

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The liver is a vital human organ that plays a crucial role in detoxifying human blood, storing energy for future use, and helping with food digestion.

These things are just the fundamental functions of the liver. There are still some other functions that contribute to one’s health.

Once the liver in the human body does not function properly, the entire body system is affected.

With this, it is crucial to properly maintain a good lifestyle so that the liver will always be in good condition.

Abstinence from alcohol drinking is a basic treatment of alcohol abuse & alcoholism one can do to keep themselves from developing alcohol-related liver diseases.

One of the liver problems which anyone may experience is cirrhosis of the liver.

This kind of problem is a fibrosis stage of the liver, caused by various forms of conditions and diseases of the liver like chronic alcoholism, hepatitis, and others.

So, every time the liver is damaged or injured, either by excessive consumption of alcohol, disease, or any other cause, it always tries to restore itself.

However, while repairing itself, there will be scar tissue that is being formed.

Once the cirrhosis continuously progresses, numerous scar tissues will be formed, making it difficult for this organ to perform its function.

An advanced stage of cirrhosis is life-threatening; so, addressing this problem in its initial stage is necessary.

Liver damage due to cirrhosis cannot be generally undone. However, diagnosing liver cirrhosis and treating the root cause earlier will prevent further damage to the liver.

In some instances, the damage to the liver can be reversed if diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

The 4 Stages of Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is a severe condition in human life that is progressive and could last long-term.

In this illness, the areas of liver tissues replace the liver’s normal structure.

It usually happens because the non-functional scar tissues separate the liver tissues, creating regions of scar tissues in the normal liver.

Scars on the liver tissues can hinder and gradually stop the normal functioning of the liver.

As this condition continuously happens over a longer duration and becomes very progressive, liver cirrhosis develops.

And once the condition or illness is not addressed correctly or stopped, resulting in the malfunction of the liver up its normal capacity, it will be referred to as final stage disease on the liver.

There are several root causes why liver cirrhosis occurs.

Individuals can develop liver cirrhosis once they suffered from liver diseases, hepatitis B, or even if they are excessively drinking alcohol.

The growth and development of liver cirrhosis may be gradual, depending on the condition.

Liver cirrhosis has four stages which will tell the person the seriousness of his liver damage.

For reference purposes and to understand the four stages of liver cirrhosis well, keep in touch on the subsequent discussions since this article will explain or elaborate on every stage of this condition.

Stage 1 - Inflammation

This is the initial stage of liver cirrhosis. On this level, there will be no signs of damages to the liver yet.

However, the organ may start to be swollen or inflamed.

And since the organ is actively irritated, it will repair itself, resulting from starting swelling upon the area because of the healing process.

At this stage, the person may feel fatigued or lack vigour or energy, and he cannot understand the actual condition of his liver.

Moreover, the organ displays no permanent symptoms or signs of this condition despite its critical damage condition.

There are no notable symptoms or signs yet at this stage since there’s no scar tissue that may show during the clinical procedures or tests being made in the laboratory.

However, if the root causes of liver cirrhosis will be cured and eliminated at this stage, then there’s a possibility that this can be back to its normal stage.

Reversing back to its normal stage would only mean that the person can have its normal liver condition without progressing to a cirrhosis state.

Stage 2 - Fibrosis

At this stage, a substantial and marked quantity of hypertension may arise.

Portal hypertension may worsen at this stage, which then results in the development of the oesophageal varices.

These are the dilated and ballooned veins around the person’s stomach or oesophagus.

And due to the ballooned or dilated veins, flowing blood through the veins towards the liver will be obstructed, resulting in portal hypertension.

Although the liver still functions at this stage, it has inflammation and puts out some collagen to lessen its swelling.

But the eradication of underlying causes behind liver cirrhosis would improve particle chances on the reversal from this condition.

Stage 3 – Liver Cirrhosis

In liver cirrhosis stage 3, there’s now a significant volume of growth or development of the ascites and the fluid accumulation on the parts of the abdominal cavity.

The ascites or fluid accumulation level can be determined by some imaging tests like abdominal ultrasound and other similar procedures.

Once the level of ascites is detected, it is possible to determine the damage level of the liver.

Undergoing several tests helps identify the volume of scars on the liver; hence, it's also possible to determine whether portal hypertension is worsened or not.

Stage 3 liver cirrhosis can still be reversed, and transplant procedures are recommended to recover from this condition.

A person who may suffer from liver cirrhosis and already reached this level would know and feel that his liver is not already functioning just like the same way it must be.

Several symptoms and signs are prominent at this stage; so, an individual can determine his condition.

According to the experts of Mayo Clinic, prominent symptoms and signs of liver cirrhosis on this stage may include weight loss, appetite loss, mental confusion, atopic dermatitis or eczema, extreme fatigue, widespread and consistent skin itchiness, pale or yellowish skin, swelling of ankles/feet/lower legs, changes on the level of blood sugar, and shortness in breathing.

Stage 4 – Liver Failure

Stage 4 liver failure is the final stage of cirrhosis, wherein the scar tissues spread on any parts of the liver.

There is a presence of bleeding on the gastrointestinal from ruptured varices on the stomach or oesophagus.

This is considered the critical stage of cirrhosis because the liver may fail to function up to its maximum performance level.

Once the condition is not diagnosed or treated, especially if there’s no chance of performing a liver transplant, then a person may be at high risk.

The symptoms and noticeable signs of stage 4 of liver cirrhosis are similar to stage 3.

However, anyone may notice some added symptoms, like confusion, personality changes, hand tremors, extreme happiness, high fever, abdominal cavity infection, and kidney failure, which may harm normal urination.

And since there’s no cure for stage 4 liver cirrhosis or liver failure, it would be better to have a better lifestyle so that anyone can prevent any possible liver disease; thus, providing a cure at once.

Some Possible Causes of Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis may be prevented if a person is meticulous enough in sustaining his good lifestyle.

Any individual should know the possible root cause of this liver disease to take care of his liver for good.

It is also better to know the possible causes of liver cirrhosis so that everyone can make a better lifestyle, leading to promote good liver condition.

The following are some of the leading causes of cirrhosis of the liver:

Alcoholism

Those people who excessively drink alcohol are prone to this kind of disease – liver cirrhosis. But it is also true that not all people who drink alcohol may end up having cirrhosis. Only 20-30% of drinkers who excessively had alcohol may suffer from this chronic disease. It always depends on the volume of alcohol that a person took from his previous days and years.

Chronic condition of Hepatitis C

This condition is another major cause of cirrhosis. Once the virus of hepatitis C infected the liver, it will then invade the cells and begin to cause inflammation. However, if hepatitis C will be treated in this acute and early stage, the prognosis will be good, and there will only be minimal damage to the human liver.

Chronic condition of Hepatitis B

Although hepatitis B has less chance of cirrhosis than Hepatitis C, it is still necessary to treat this condition and maintain a better lifestyle. If this condition will persist and eventually become chronic, this may also cause inflammation, resulting in the death of the liver cells. This will then be replaced by the scar tissues, which trigger the occurrence of cirrhosis.

Hemochromatosis

This is a generic condition wherein the body absorbs an extra quantity of iron, resulting in iron overload within the body. Excessive iron may start to deposit in the pancreas, skin, liver, joints, and heart muscles. Once the iron is deposited into the liver, it brings liver inflammation. Moreover, if this will not be treated as soon as possible, iron will keep accumulating on liver tissues and stimulate fibrosis.

These are just some of the major causes that trigger the occurrence of liver cirrhosis. There are still some other things that may cause this condition.

So, as early as possible, it is important to properly take care of oneself and maintain a better way of living.

As much as possible, individuals should avoid too much alcohol content in the body, which is the most common reason why liver cirrhosis occurs.

How to Treat Liver Cirrhosis?

Liver cirrhosis is needed to be diagnosed at an early stage and must be given appropriate treatment.

Prevention against liver cirrhosis is still better than cure; so, the best thing that anyone can do is avoid such things that trigger this condition.

However, if a person was already diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, the following tips and considerations must be taken:

  • Determine the root causes and treat them – Identifying their root causes is the first step of liver cirrhosis treatment. Once the reasons are already determined, it is a must to improvise some treatments accordingly. For instance, if cirrhosis occurs because of chronic hepatitis, it is possible to provide interferons to remedy infection and avoid cirrhosis.
  • Limit or stop alcohol consumption – If liver cirrhosis occurs because of alcoholism, it is the best move to eliminate alcohol use. (Seek help from Abbeycare Scotland and Abbeycare Gloucester treatment centres for alcoholism.) In addition, avoiding alcohol consumption can help in preventing further development of the disease.
  • Improve nutrition and diet – It is a must to improve the nutrition and diet of an individual to prevent the growth or development of cirrhosis. As much as possible, have a better lifestyle and take multivitamins supplements.
  • Reduce the danger of bleeding – Platelets and vitamin K supplements can be provided to lessen the danger of bleeding. In addition, on the advanced level disease, clotting factors would be provided to prevent some complications, especially if there's the declination in the synthesis of clotting factors.
  • Treat hypertension – A person may be treated his portal hypertension by utilizing antihypertensive drugs. These may somehow help him to control this condition.

With these things cited above, a cirrhosis person can address his concern and treat this condition.

Conclusion

Cirrhosis is one of the critical conditions of the human liver.

A person must be knowledgeable enough about the signs, symptoms, causes, and procedures of treating liver cirrhosis if he experiences this kind of condition.

But the most effective and important thing that anyone can do is make himself healthy and physically fit to prevent any possible disease.


About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for The Hygrove and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.