Your liver seems to be taking center stage these days. All of the peeking, poking, and prodding done by your doctor is to help to see what stage of liver disease you have. Since hepatitis C causes damage to the liver, a lot of factors come into play. But no matter what the cause of liver disease, the outcome is the same: cirrhosis. It is usually thought of in 4 stages.
Stage 1 –
Outside: You will probably not even know you have any liver problems.
Inside: Your liver is working hard trying to heal inflammation from the hepatitis C virus. It is coping well and filtering out the toxins in your blood. It can still and regulate your sugar, protein, and fat stores.
Stage 2 –
Inside: Your liver is beginning to take a hit and tries to heal itself by making collagen bands. You may feel fatigue throughout the day. Your muscles and joints may be achy.
Outside: You may notice that your nails are thick and have ridges. Your hair may become dry and brittle. Your skin could appear drier. Other than that, you can look perfectly healthy at this stage of liver disease.
Stage 3 –
Inside: Your liver can’t keep up with all of it’s functions any more. As it tries to heal, fibrous bands are starting to clog the liver up. This puts an extra burden on other organs. Your body is feeling it.
Outside: Your body is feeling a loss of energy. At night, you may try to rest, but have trouble staying asleep. General feelings of depression can set in due to fatigue. There may be some water retention. Leg cramps can become a problem. You may experience hair loss.
What you can do: Continue to eat simple meals with a lot of good protein. Eating several small meals a day is easier on your liver. Do not rely on vitamins and caffeine for lack of energy. Eat well and rest.
Stage 4 –
Inside: The fibrosis has wrapped up your liver. It may even be blocking the big veins in your liver. This can cause other problems like ascites and portal hypertension. If you no longer have hepatitis C, the liver can continue to function with medication and a doctor’s care.
Outside: Your skin and eyes may be yellow. You may have swelling in your hands, feet, and tummy. It can be a time where your mind has confusion, especially after a meal with high protein. Your body needs a lot of support from medications and good nutrition.
What you can do: Eat the healthiest diet possible with low sodium and clean protein. Follow your doctor’s orders about what pills and vitamins are safe. Rest when you need to and conserve energy for big jobs.
After that, it is End Stage. Your doctor can run tests to tell you exactly what stage of liver cirrhosis you have. I made it to End Stage without even knowing I had the hepatitis C virus. Eating well and following my doctor’s advice helped me through the whole process. Pay close attention to your body’s signals and report any changes to your doctor. Go ahead and let your liver be center stage. That just means you can let the spotlight shine on it and give it all the healing power it needs with medication, good food, and a healthy lifestyle.