What is Cirrhosis of the Liver? Symptoms and Causes
Cirrhosis is the developed stage of fibrosis (scarring) of the liver because of many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as primary biliary cholangitis, hepatitis, and chronic alcohol consumption. Scars refrain the liver from functioning properly. One may not be able to figure out the symptoms in the beginning stages of the disease. The scars block the blood flowing through the liver and slow down the ability of the liver to process nutrients, hormones, drugs, and poisons.
The chances of getting cirrhosis of the liver are high if a person:
- consumes alcohol for many years.
- is suffering from viral hepatitis.
- has diabetes.
- is obese.
- injects drugs through shared needles.
- had been suffering from liver diseases previously.
- has unprotected sex.
Symptoms of Cirrhosis Liver: –
Many liver complications do not show up in the beginning and show is the case with cirrhosis. The symptoms are hard to figure out until the liver has been damaged extensively. But there are some common signs that are generally ignored. They include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of legs, feet, or ankle
- Loss of weight
- Itching skin
- Yellowing (or paling) of skin and eyes(jaundice)
- Accumulation of fluids in the abdomen
- Redness of the palms
- In women, absence, or loss of periods (excluding the case of menopause)
- In men, loss of sex drives, enlargement of breasts(gynecomastia), testicular atrophy
- Hepatic encephalopathy (sleepiness, confusion, or loss of mental stability)
One needs to see a Liver specialist doctor immediately if he/she notices any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms.
Causes of Cirrhosis Liver:-
The causes may include:
- Chronic alcohol intake
- Chronic Hepatitis (Hepatitis-B, Hepatitis-C, Hepatitis-D)
- Accumulation of fats in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD)
- Deposition of heavy metals like iron in the body (hemochromatosis)
- Reduction in the formation of bile ducts (biliary atresia)
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (the chemical that helps in resisting infection functions wrongly)
- Sugar metabolism inherited disorders (galactosemia or glycogen storage disease)
- Alagille syndrome
- Autoimmune hepatitis (caused due to the immune system)
- Bile ducts destruction (primary biliary cirrhosis)
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis (scarring and damaging of the bile ducts)
Consumption of excess alcohol can lead to the development of cirrhosis. When too many fats build up inside the liver, it leads to NAFLD. The extra fats can cause inflammation in the liver. One of its types is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). It results in the damage of the liver cells, including fats. It has a high chance of producing scars in the liver which leads to cirrhosis. The one who is insulin-resistant, obese, and has certain health conditions like too many fats in the body may develop cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis may result in complications as follows:
Portal hypertension: The pressure of the blood in the veins that supply the liver becomes high. Cirrhosis slows down the normal rate of the flow of blood through the liver due to which increases the pressure in the vein that brings blood to the liver from the intestines and the spleen. Portal hypertension can also cause blood to get redirected to small veins. Due to extra strain, these veins may burst and lead to internal bleeding. It may also result in enlargement of veins (varices) in the esophagus (known as esophageal varices) or in the stomach (known as gastric varices) and lead to excess bleeding.
Swollen legs and abdomen: The increased pressure in the portal vein may cause the fluid to deposition in the legs (edema) and in the abdomen (ascites). Edema and ascites result when the liver is unable to make enough of certain blood proteins, such as albumin.
Splenomegaly: It is the enlargement of the spleen. Portal hypertension can also lead to changes in the spleen thereby causing it to swell. It also results in the decrease of white blood cells and platelets, which may be identified as the initial signs of cirrhosis.
Infections: Due to cirrhosis, the body may find it difficult to fight against infectious foreign bodies. Ascites may lead to bacterial peritonitis, a serious infection.
Hepatic encephalopathy: Due to cirrhosis, the liver is unable to clear toxins from the blood. These toxins affect the brain largely, therefore causing a state of mental confusion and lower concentration. It may result in unresponsiveness and the person may end up in a coma.
Jaundice: Jaundice occurs when the liver is unable to remove bilirubin, a blood waste product. It results in yellowing of the skin and the eyes and darkening of urine.
Bone disease: Cirrhosis may cause loosening of the strength of the bones and increases the risk of fractures.
Liver Cancer: In some people, cirrhosis may end up in liver cancer.
Acute-on-chronic cirrhosis: In some people, it may result in multi-organ failure.
TREATMENT FOR CIRRHOSIS:-
Treatment for cirrhosis depends on its causes and how far the disorder has progressed. Some treatments that doctors might prescribe include:
- Beta-blockers or nitrates (for curing portal hypertension)
- Quitting drinking (if cirrhosis is caused due to the consumption of alcohol)
- Banding procedures (for controlling bleeding from esophageal varices)
- Intravenous antibiotics (for the treatment of peritonitis that can occur with ascites)
- Hemodialysis (for purifying the blood of those in kidney failure)
- Lactulose and a low protein diet (for the treatment of encephalopathy)
Liver transplantation is the only option when other treatments fail.
- One should not consume alcohol if he/she is suffering from any kind of liver problem.
- One should plan a healthy diet switching to plant-based diets full of fruits and leafy and green vegetables. The consumption of grains and proteins should be increased in the diets. One should cut down the consumption of fatty and fried foods.
- One should maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Excess fat deposition increases the risk of causing liver damage. If a person is obese or overweight, he/she need to see a doctor and discuss a weight-loss plan.
- Using shared needles or having unprotected sex increases the risk of developing Hepatitis-B and Hepatitis-C. To reduce the risk of hepatitis one needs to ask the doctor about hepatitis vaccinations.