Cirrhosis

What is Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is a severe scarring of the liver and poor liver function due to excessive exposure to alcohol or due to a viral infection. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), people who regularly consume alcohol for more than 10 years can develop cirrhosis. Other factors that may cause liver cirrhosis include:

  • Accumulation of fat in the liver due to obesity
  • Autoimmune (immune system attacks the liver cells) liver disease
  • Certain medications
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Iron build-up in the body
  • Certain digestive disorders

How does Liver Cirrhosis Develop?

The liver performs some of the important functions of the body including:

  • Production of bile juice
  • Storing sugars in the form of glycogen
  • Making proteins that help in blood clotting
  • Purifying blood from harmful substances including drugs or alcohol

Each time your liver gets injured, it repairs itself and produces a small amount of scar tissue. Excess scar tissue is formed when your liver is exposed to the damaging factors for a long period of time, making it difficult to repair itself. A cirrhotic liver appears hard and shrunken.

Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis

Fluid retention (accumulation of water and salt) at the abdomen, leg, ankle, etc. is the early sign of liver cirrhosis. Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite and weakness
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Itchy and yellowing of the skin
  • Yellow eyes
  • Urine colour brown or orange, light-coloured stools
  • Nose bleeds

What Happens if Liver Cirrhosis is Untreated?

Some of the complications of untreated liver cirrhosis include:

  • Impotence
  • Confusion and loss of proper thinking
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver cancer
  • Gall stones
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Bone diseases

Diagnosis of Liver Cirrhosis

Your doctor will take your medical history of alcohol abuse, hepatitis infection, autoimmune disease, etc. and performs a physical exam. Your doctor may order the following tests:

  • MRI or CT scan of the abdomen
  • Ultrasound scan of the liver
  • Liver biopsy
  • Liver functions test
  • Complete blood count
  • Tests to screen liver cancer

Treatment of Liver Cirrhosis

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. The treatment includes:

  • Quitting alcohol consumption
  • Diet modification usually involves a decrease in salt intake
  • Weight loss program (obese people)
  • Medications to treat viral infection and other symptoms of cirrhosis
  • Medications to control autoimmunity
  • Management of diabetes
  • Liver transplant in severe cases

Prevention of Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis can be prevented by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding alcohol consumption
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting vaccinated for hepatitis
  • Managing diabetes and autoimmune diseases

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