Considered as one of the most important organs of the body, the liver performs numerous functions for our body. The liver not only helps in creating blood clotting proteins or in the production of different enzymes for our body but it also has a very important role in cleansing our system by removing all the harmful toxins from our bloodstream.
And now can you imagine the working condition of our body, if all the healthy tissues of the liver are replaced by stiff scarred tissues? Quite terrifying, right? Severe scarring of the liver tissues or what is known in medical terms as liver cirrhosis affects 1 out of 77 people every year. Men tend to get more affected by this medical condition than women.
What is liver cirrhosis you ask? What are the symptoms of this ailment? What are the causes of this condition? Is liver cirrhosis curable or will it lead to further complications? If you are also curious to find more about this chronic ailment, continue reading the article as we delve further into the topic.
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What is liver cirrhosis?
Liver cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver tissues. Our liver is a very strong organ and it can regenerate damaged cells itself in otherwise healthy condition. However, when certain factors that usually cause liver cirrhosis to persist over a long time, the cells and tissues of the liver become slowly damaged and injured and ultimately lead to liver cirrhosis or poor functioning of the liver in general.
The cirrhosis makes the liver shrink in size and hardens over time which makes it difficult for the blood-filled with nutrients to flow into the liver through the portal vein.
Cirrhosis is itself a late stage of liver damage, however, according to doctors, there are four stages to liver cirrhosis.
- Stage 1 cirrhosis- Some scarring of the liver tissues is taking place. No symptoms are usually detected in this stage. This stage is also known as compensated cirrhosis and does not pose any complications.
- Stage 2 cirrhosis- Worsening of the condition. Development of portal hypertension and varices in the liver.
- Stage 3 cirrhosis- Swelling of the abdomen takes place. This stage is marked by advanced liver scarring and is also known as decompensated cirrhosis stage. This stage leads to serious complications and can also lead to liver failure in the future.
- Stage 4 cirrhosis- This stage is life-threatening and people develop end-stage liver disease (ESLD). The development of this condition is extremely fatal for the affected.
Liver cirrhosis causes
The common causes of liver cirrhosis are:
- One of the biggest causes of liver cirrhosis is excessive alcohol consumption. People consuming more than three drinks a day over ten to twelve years have high chances of developing liver cirrhosis.
- Hepatitis leads to inflammation of the liver and damage of the tissue leading to cirrhosis.
- Damage to a bile duct
- The build-up of fat in the liver
- Suffering from disorders that affect the body’s capability of handling iron and copper.
- Certain medications like acetaminophen or certain antibiotics and antidepressants.
Potential liver cirrhosis symptoms
At the initial stages of liver damage, one cannot observe any symptoms and most of the clinical symptoms of liver cirrhosis occur when the disorder has progressed considerably and the liver is no longer able to perform its regular functions for the body. Some of the common symptoms of liver cirrhosis are
- Decreased appetite and sudden weight loss or suffering from anorexia
- Nose bleeds
- Development of spider-shaped veins under the skin and itchy skin
- Pale skin or jaundice
- General weakness and fatigue
If the conditions worsen further, then the following symptoms can be observed too
- Difficulty in thinking clearly
- Swelling of abdomen and the legs
- Development of breast tissues by the males (gynecomastia)
If any observe any of the above-mentioned symptoms, consult your healthcare provider, so that you can prevent aggravation of the condition and diagnose it at the initial stages.
Complications of liver cirrhosis
The liver is a very important organ for the body as it manages some of the most important functions for our system and poor functioning of the liver leads to severe complications if not the ailment is not treated properly. Some of the complications are:
- Building up of fluids in the abdomen and legs which are known as ascites and oedema respectively.
- Liver cirrhosis causes the liver to harden and it becomes difficult for the nutrient-rich blood to enter into the liver. This causes an increase in pressure of the blood vessels, a condition known as portal hypertension.
- Levels of toxins increase in the body leading to a condition known as hepatic encephalopathy.
- The development of aortopulmonary syndrome becomes life-threatening for the affected.
- Coagulation disorders
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
Treatments for liver cirrhosis
As we know liver cirrhosis is a late stage of liver damage and since the damage has already been done, most of the treatments focus on
- Protecting the healthy liver tissues that are still left
- Preventing further worsening of the condition
- Treating the symptoms as well as the complications if developed
Identifying the cause that has led to liver cirrhosis is one of the crucial stages for treatment as diagnosing the root cause will help the doctor to prevent further aggravating the situation. Some of the measures advised are:
- Stopping alcohol consumption at once. Generally, medications and therapies are also suggested if the affected person suffers from alcohol addiction.
- Losing weight if liver cirrhosis is caused due to fat buildup in the liver.
- Following medications to treat ailments like hepatitis or bile duct damage.
- Consuming a low-sodium diet to prevent the risk of oedema and ascites.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle. Consume a balanced diet and maintain the optimal hydration levels in the body.
The damage done by cirrhosis cannot be undone but the liver can return to its proper working conditions if the causes can be diagnosed at the initial stages and can be removed or reduced readily. If the cirrhosis is severe, then liver transplantation is the last retort available. However, liver transplantation is a major operation and people usually have to go on a waiting list to get an organ donor.
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Now that is all you need to know about liver cirrhosis. As you can already see, the liver is a very important organ for our body and the proper functioning of the organs maintains the general well-being of our health. And as we all know prevention is better than cure. Follow a healthy and active lifestyle and take good care of your health.
However, with all that being said, one should immediately consult their healthcare provider if they observe any of the above-mentioned symptoms as early as possible as the faster diagnosis of the condition leads to amelioration and reduction of this medical condition easily.