Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Liver Fibrosis?
This is a buildup of collagen deposits in your liver. It is also sometimes referred to as hepatic fibrosis. Although liver fibrosis can happen to anyone it occurs more rapidly in men than in women, people who are over the age of fifty, have compromised immune systems, drink heavily, and insulin resistance.
Liver Fibrosis Staging
There are several different scales used to stage liver fibrosis but the one common classification that most physicians use is a scale that goes from zero to four.
- Stage 0 – at this stage there is no fibrosis
- Stage 1 – this stage indicates that there is an enlargement of the portal areas by fibrosis.
- Stage 2 – at this stage it indicates that your liver fibrosis is extending out from the portal areas with rare bridges between the portal areas.
- Stage 3 – this stage indicates many bridges of liver fibrosis that link up central and portal areas of your liver
- Stage 4 – at this stage it indicates you have cirrhosis
When assessing the degree of fibrosis it can be assessed as:
Symptoms of Liver Fibrosis
At first when you have liver fibrosis you may not notice any symptoms but over time the function of your liver will start to decline and you will start to experience changes in your liver size, symptoms of dysfunction, and portal hypertension, which is an increase in your blood pressure within a system of veins that are called the portal venous system. In the beginning of this disease you may live a normal and possibly active life for decades and not know you have liver disease.
A person could experience:
- Fatigue and/or exhaustion
- Weight loss and poor appetite
- Itchy hands and feet
- Abdominal pain
- Intestinal bleeding
- Urine that is dark in color
When a person has a buildup of collagen deposits it is usually in response to a chronic disease, which is a disease that either recurs or is persistent and will normally affect a person for three months or more. When a person has a chronic disease it is the result of a variety of factors such as living conditions or poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, or using harmful substances like alcohol, or is hereditary. If over time this collagen starts to disrupt your liver’s architecture it will cause problems with your normal liver functions.
Liver fibrosis can also be caused by an accumulation of scar tissue in your liver because the scar tissue builds up faster than it can be broken down and removed from your liver. The other causes of liver fibrosis include chronic hepatitis C or hepatitis B virus infection, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, trauma, and alcohol abuse.
If a person does not receive treatment for liver fibrosis it could progress to cirrhosis, which is a condition of the liver that is marked by the scarring of your liver tissues that results in impaired liver function and blocked blood flow. One thing to note is that if it does progress to full-blown cirrhosis, this is one of the leading causes of death by disease and each year more than twenty-five thousand people die from cirrhosis of the liver. Many times if it progresses to cirrhosis you may need to have a liver transplant to take care of the problem.
Which treatments that the physician will use depend on many factors such as the patient’s age and their general level of health. If is possible to reverse the damage of liver fibrosis if you receive the appropriate treatment. If the cause is an accumulation of scar tissue it can be treated by replacing healthy liver tissue in order for your liver to function properly but you must also make sure that the condition that caused the accumulation of scarring is also treated. If both are not treated liver fibrosis will continue to progress.
Some of the ways that liver fibrosis can be treated are:
- If you drink alcohol, whether a social drinker or a heavy consumer, you should abstain from drinking any alcohol because if you do not the alcohol can cause further liver damage.
- Make sure that you treat any infections that you have promptly and try to avoid people who are sick. You also need to make sure that you frequently wash your hands and be vaccinated for pneumonia, influenza, and hepatitis A and B.
- Maintain a healthy well-balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruits but make sure that you avoid eating raw seafood due to the risk of infection.
- Eat a diet that is low fat/low sodium because an excess amount of salt can cause your body to increase fluid retention in your legs and abdomen.
- If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis make sure that you take the medication to treat it. Doing so can help to slow the progression of liver fibrosis and could even possibly reverse liver fibrosis.
- Wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling toxic substances.
- Avoid using any type of recreational drug.
- When using over-the-counter medications do it carefully and make sure that you avoid naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin products. If you are not sure what to take talk to your physician or the pharmacist
- Get the proper amount of rest and exercise.
- It is also safe to drink green tea if you want.