Fibrosis is a condition in which the liver becomes scarred. This scar tissue forms when the liver repeatedly attempts to repair itself. Though the liver can replace some of its damaged cells, it often results in scarring. When this condition becomes particularly severe, patients may be diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.
Causes & Diagnosis of Fibrosis
Fibrosis can be caused by numerous health conditions. Usually, fibrosis only occurs if damage to the liver is chronic or continuous. Single bouts of damage, such as bouts of acute hepatitis, are often not enough to cause fibrosis of the liver.
When the liver is repeatedly damaged and repaired, scar tissue is formed. Unfortunately, this tissue cannot perform the necessary functions of the liver. This scar tissue is simply a hindrance to the organ, limiting blood flow to the liver and preventing the surviving liver cells from functioning at full capacity. If the cells of the liver cannot get enough blood, they will die, resulting in more scar tissue forming on the organ.
Fibrosis is generally diagnosed through imaging tests and blood results. In some cases, doctors may choose to perform a biopsy of the liver to determine the precise state of the organ.
If fibrosis is diagnosed early on, it can sometimes be reversed. If, however, damage has occurred for months or years on end, the damage to the organ will likely become permanent.
Doctors can often diagnose fibrosis and estimate its severity based on results of blood and imaging tests, but sometimes liver biopsy is required.
Many conditions can result in fibrosis of the liver. A few of the most common health problems resulting in fibrosis include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Alcoholic Fatty liver disease
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Hereditary disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Conditions that affect blood flow to/from the liver
- Drug use
- and more…
Fibrosis itself does not often result in many symptoms. If symptoms are noticed, it is likely that fibrosis is severe, and may have developed into cirrhosis.
Fibrosis can be treated in a number of ways. Though current scar tissue cannot usually be eliminated, treatment methods can prevent the liver from enduring further damage.
Popular treatments for fibrosis include:
- Abstinence from alcohol
- Weight loss
- Blood sugar control
- Taking patients off of liver-scarring medications/switching medications
- Antiviral drugs used to combat hepatitis
- Dissolving blockages in the bile ducts
- Usage of other drugs to reduce fibrosis (ex: corticosteroids)
- and more…
Drugs such as corticosteroids generally cannot be taken for long durations. Unfortunately, there are few medicinal treatments proven to remedy fibrosis that has already occurred.
If you suspect that you may have developed fibrosis of the liver, consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Beginning treatment is the only way to prevent your liver from enduring further damage. By acting quickly, you can spare your liver from cirrhosis, liver failure, and more. You only have one liver; be sure to take care of it.