The liver is an important filtration organ in the body. Without the liver, toxins will accumulate in the body, and death will occur. Liver damage occurs after contracting diseases such as hepatitis B or C, as a result of malnutrition, an overdose or excessive buildup of various medications, hereditary diseases such as hemochromatosis (the body absorbs too much iron from food) and excessive alcohol consumption. Certain wild mushrooms, when consumed, will also cause liver damage.
The liver is located on top of the stomach, intestines and right kidney, below the diaphragm. A healthy liver produces bile, which helps digest fats in the intestines and carries waste away. It creates cholesterol and special proteins to carry fats through the body, regulates amino acid levels in the blood, produces blood proteins, converts extra glucose into glycogen so the sugar can be stored and regulates blood clotting. The healthy liver also stores iron, converts ammonia to urea, which is one of the components of urine, filters the blood of dangerous toxins and drugs, removes bacteria from the blood and manufactures immune factors.
The first stage of liver damage is inflammation. Signs of inflammation are tenderness and enlargement of the liver. An inflamed liver might not cause the individual any pain, but if it continues, it will do lasting damage. If the inflammation is treated, permanent damage can be avoided.
Fibrosis is the second stage of liver damage, resulting from an untreated, inflamed liver. As the inflammation continues, scar tissue replaces the healthy liver tissue, impairing liver function. This process is called fibrosis, meaning the replacement of healthy tissue with fibrous tissue. Scar tissue blocks the normal blood flow through the liver, which requires the remaining healthy portions to work harder. If the fibrosis is treated at this stage, even though there is damage to the liver, the organ can repair itself over time.
Cirrhosis is the third stage of liver damage, resulting from an untreated, fibrous liver. Cirrhosis occurs after the liver has become so scarred that it cannot heal itself. Symptoms of cirrhosis include water accumulation in the legs and abdomen, an intense itching sensation on your skin, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), easily bruised, easy to bleed, burst blood vessels, type 2 diabetes, problems concentrating, sleeping and impaired mental functions.
The final stage of liver damage is failure. Liver failure requires an immediate liver transplant. The initial symptoms of liver failure are diarrhea, fatigue and loss of appetite. As time passes, the symptoms become severe, including extreme sleepiness, confusion, disorientation, coma and death.