Liver damage, or cirrhosis, may cause no symptoms in its early stages. Early signs may be nonspecific, such as nausea or fatigue. Later stages can lead to symptoms such as jaundice, itchy skin, and swelling in the lower limbs.

According to 2018 statistics, 4.5 million adults in America have a liver disease diagnosis. Liver damage has many potential causes, including viruses, obesity, and alcohol misuse. Over time, damage leads to a buildup of scar tissue on the liver, known as cirrhosis.

When this occurs, scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, leading to symptoms and possibly liver failure.

A person may not have any initial symptoms. As the damage progresses, a person may start to notice nonspecific symptoms that can progressively worsen.

This article reviews early and late-stage symptoms of liver damage, its causes, treatment, and prevention.

A female holding their head in her hand. Signs of liver damage can include, confusion, fatigue and memory loss.Share on Pinterest
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Liver damage has various potential causes, including alcohol use and viral infections.

At first, these conditions may not cause any symptoms. As the damage worsens, a person may begin to notice new, developing symptoms.

Early signs of liver damage and scarring may include:

A person may not experience all of these symptoms.

They are also nonspecific symptoms, meaning they could occur due to several potential causes other than liver damage.

As damage to the liver and scarring progresses, a person may start to experience more and worsening symptoms.

They can include:

Learn more about liver disease symptoms and diagnosis.

Liver damage may occur due to a variety of different causes. They can include:

These conditions can cause liver damage and scar tissue, known as cirrhosis. When a person has cirrhosis, their liver does not heal, and scar tissue begins to replace healthy tissue.

This can lead to complications, such as:

Learn more about cirrhosis.

Treatment for cirrhosis typically focuses on correcting the underlying condition. In some cases, a healthcare professional may be able to cure the underlying condition.

However, besides a liver transplant, there is no cure for cirrhosis. Treating the underlying conditions can help prevent further damage and possibly help the person avoid liver failure.

Treatments for underlying causes often involve the use of medications and other therapies. Therapies for specific conditions may include:

A person should work with a doctor or healthcare team to determine the best treatment options for them.

A person may not be able to prevent all causes of liver damage, but they can take steps to reduce their risk and help prevent cirrhosis from worsening.

Some tips to help prevent liver damage include:

  • limiting alcohol
  • discussing nutritional supplements with a healthcare professional before taking them
  • avoiding illegal drugs
  • discussing medications with a healthcare professional before taking them, including both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications
  • taking medications as directed
  • avoiding undercooked or raw shellfish, fish, and meat
  • getting screenings for hepatitis C
  • maintaining a moderate body weight
  • eating a balanced diet
  • getting vaccinations for:

People should consult a healthcare professional if they develop symptoms that last longer than a few days and could indicate liver damage.

If a person has cirrhosis and needs to switch medications or is considering taking OTC medications or supplements should also speak with a healthcare professional. They can advise on the safety of taking medications and supplements with cirrhosis.

Liver diseases that cause damage often do not show obvious signs or symptoms until liver damage occurs. At first, symptoms may be mild and include weight loss, fatigue, or nausea.

As the damage progresses, a person’s symptoms will also start to worsen. They may develop jaundice, easily bruise, and develop swelling in their lower limbs.

Treatment typically focuses on correcting the underlying condition. In some cases, treatment may cure the condition. In others, it may help to slow the progression of liver damage.

A person may be able to help prevent liver damage by maintaining a moderate weight, limiting alcohol use, and treating underlying conditions, such as hepatitis C.