What Are the Stages in Liver Failure?


Quick Answer

Liver failure stems from simple inflammation of the liver, which progresses to fibrosis (scarring of the liver), then moves to actual degradation of the liver and cirrhosis, states the American Liver Foundation. If untreated in the earlier stages, this progression eventually leads to liver failure and/or death. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible, if experiencing any signs of potential liver failure for early diagnosis and treatment.

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Full Answer

During the first stage of liver disease, or the inflammation stage, the liver becomes tender and enlarged, sometimes without the subject even noticing, therefore easily progressing on to the next stage. This is defined as hepatitis. However, if the disease is diagnosed and treated at this stage, the inflammation may go away, and further damage may be avoided.

If this stage goes untreated, it progresses to fibrosis. Fibrosis is the process of scar tissue replacing healthy tissue. The loss of healthy liver tissue limits the blood flow through the organ, thereby causing the liver to work less effectively, according to the American Liver Foundation. In order to make up for this, the remaining healthy parts of the liver work much harder. While the chances of repairing the liver are lesser at this stage, full recovery is still a possibility if treated in time.

The fibrosis can be so detrimental and severe, however, that the damage may become irreversible. This stage is known as cirrhosis, or permanent scarring of liver tissue, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of cirrhosis include easy bruising or bleeding, the buildup of water in the legs or abdomen, an intense itching sensation, and cognitive dysfunction. Left untreated, the final stage is liver failure. Liver failure is defined as the liver losing most or all of its function, states the American Liver Foundation. Confusion and disorientation are two of many side effects that may occur during this time, and immediate medical attention is needed.

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