Liver disease is a common side effect of chronic drug use. Alcohol, heroin and performance-enhancing drugs are some of the most common substances that lead to liver disease, and eventually, liver failure.
But what are the stages of liver disease, and can they be reversed?
Stage 1: Inflammation
When your liver floods with toxins from the alcohol you ingest, it starts to get overloaded. Liver inflammation can come from obesity, medications and drinking alcohol.
Inflammation often doesn’t cause symptoms, so many people don’t realize their liver is in this state. If you do experience symptoms, they would include fatigue, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.
Stage 2: Fibrosis
Fibrosis is what happens when your liver starts to build up scar tissue. This scar tissue replaces healthy tissue but doesn’t function the same way. Once your liver gets damaged, it’s hard for it to heal back.
The second most likely cause of fibrosis is a liver disease that comes from excessive drinking.
Most of the time, symptoms still aren’t present at this stage, making it hard to detect. If you do experience symptoms, the fibrosis is likely moderately developed.
These symptoms include:
- Fluid buildup
- Loss of appetite
- Mental fog
- Muscle weakness
- Drastic weight loss
Stage 3: Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a more severe form of fibrosis. When your liver reaches this stage, your liver has difficulty functioning. Again, this stage of liver disease doesn’t have symptoms until it gets severe.
These symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Bruising easily
- Fluid build up in the stomach
- Itchy skin
- Leg swelling
- Slurred speech
- Weight loss
If you have these symptoms, you’ll need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Stage 4: End-Stage Liver Disease
The term “end-stage liver disease” refers to several diseases that can impact your liver. These include nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease, and hepatitis B or C. When we can’t reverse the liver damage, it becomes terminal. Most patients at this stage of liver damage need a transplant; however, waitlists are long, so many don’t get one.
Stage 5: Liver Cancer
Liver cancer includes types of cancers that start as tumors or nodules. These can either start in the liver itself or in the bile duct. Cancer that begins in other organs can also spread to the liver.
In the U.S., liver tumors are more common than primary liver cancer (cancer originating from the liver). There’s no sure way to tell if liver cancer is terminal since there are several different types.
How to Prevent Liver Disease
The good news is that as you take care of your health, your risk for liver disease decreases. The two best ways to prevent liver disease are to drink alcohol sparingly and maintain a healthy weight.
Also, if you’re on any medications, refrain from drinking alcohol. Many meds create problems when combined with alcohol and strain the liver.
If you’re recovering from alcohol addiction, Washburn House can help you get sober and take care of your liver. Call us at 855-298-3104.