Liver is one of the most important organs of the body and is susceptible to many infections and diseases. Cirrhosis of the liver, one of the chronic diseases affecting the liver, might be an unfamiliar term for many. This is why this article aims to explore its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, stages, and treatment.
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
It is a chronic disease that gravely impacts the liver due to the formation of scar tissues. This process is usually gradual and can even lead to the failure of the liver, if not diagnosed at the initial stages. Some of the vital functions that are performed by the liver, such as cleansing of blood, storage of essential nutrients, production of bile, etc, can also get hampered due to the scarring.
Causes of Liver Cirrhosis:
Cirrhosis can occur due to a number of reasons. The prominent ones include the following:
- Excessive intake of alcohol: Harmful toxins present in alcoholic beverages can damage the liver and lead to its swelling.
- Infections: Hepatitis C, the leading causes of which include sexual intercourse and blood transfusion, can cause inflammation of the liver.
- Genetic Factors: Agglomeration of iron and copper in the liver.
- Medicines: Rare adverse reactions to certain medicines can also be a contributing factor.
- Other Factors: Unregulated sugar levels, high blood pressure, malfunctioning of bile ducts, and obesity are some of the other causes of cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis:
The disease is asymptomatic during the initial stages. However, several symptoms can occur as its severity increases, such as:
- extreme tiredness
- loss of appetite
- swelling of different body parts
- difficulty in breathing
- nose bleeding
- excessive hair and weight loss
- extreme body and muscle pain
- changes in the color of urine
- decreased sex drive
Stages of Liver Cirrhosis:
Cirrhosis has been classified by medical experts into two stages: compensated or decompensated.
- Compensated Cirrhosis: In this stage, the patient’s liver is able to perform its functions efficiently, despite the developed scarring. No major symptoms are shown by the patient as well. He/she can stay in this stage for many years.
- Decompensated Cirrhosis: In this stage, the proper functioning of the liver gets severely hampered and the patient shows significant symptoms, including the ones mentioned above. He/she usually stays in this stage for around two years.
Diagnosis of Liver Cirrhosis:
Usually, doctors tend to ask a patient his/her medical history in order to know about his/her lifestyle choices, such as alcohol consumption and drug intake.
Further, both several physical examinations and medical tests can also be done by the doctor.
Physical examinations: Doctors tend to physically examine the patient’s body to look for symptoms such as bruises, swellings, jaundice, size of organs, vessels, etc
Medical tests: These include blood tests and liver functioning tests to examine the patient’s blood count, the presence of infections, accumulation of toxins, etc.
Ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI, etc can also be used to observe abnormalities in the size of the patient’s liver. Images can also show the extent of the formation of the scar tissue.
Moreover, a biopsy can also be done in which the doctor examines the tissues of the liver to diagnose the disease.
Complications of Liver Cirrhosis:
A number of complications can occur due to liver cirrhosis, including:
- Portal Hypertension: This refers to the decrease in flow of blood from the intestines to the liver caused due to cirrhosis. This increases the pressure in the portal vein, and thus, the blood might get transferred to other smaller veins, leading them to burst. It can result in excessive bleeding. The veins of the oesophagus and stomach can also get enlarged.
- Hepatic Encephalopathy: Build up of toxic chemicals in the brain, leading to confusion.
- Liver cancer and liver failure.
- Weak bones.
- The liver’s ability to process nutrients might also get hampered.
- Jaundice can occur if the liver is unable to remove bilirubin, a waste product, from the blood.
- The body becomes more prone to infections.
- Edema and Ascites (fluid accumulation in legs and abdomen, respectively, causing them to swell)
- Enlargement of the spleen.
- Kidney damage and failure.
Treatment of Liver Cirrhosis:
- The treatment for every patient is subjective and depends on the severity of the disease.
- Although the damage caused to the liver is incurable, some steps can be taken by the patient in order to stop the scarring from increasing.
- Lifestyle changes are the first and foremost recommendation by the experts. An alcohol-dependent person is usually suggested a rehabilitation treatment in order to lead him to sobriety.
- Similarly, physical exercises can be suggested for an obese person.
- Suitable dietary changes can also be recommended by the doctors depending on the body demands of the patient.
- Medications can also be provided if the initial damage to the liver was caused by infections, such as Hepatitis B and C. Certain drugs may also be prescribed for reducing the number of toxins present in the blood.
Prevention of Liver Cirrhosis:
Since Hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of Cirrhosis, the use of different needles during blood transfusion, as well as following safety measures during sexual intercourse should be encouraged, to prevent this disease.
Taking a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol intake are also recommended for the same.
A beneficiary guide for liver cirrhosis has been provided. Liver cirrhosis symptoms, causes, complications, stages, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention have been mentioned to provide a one-stop for all the details regarding the disease.