Liver Cirrhosis – A Serious and Fatal Liver Disease and Problem
The liver is the largest solid and one of the most important organs in the human body. A healthy liver is required for a healthy life and proper functioning of our system. The main function of the liver include blood filtration, production of bile (an important digestive liquid), and conversion of sugar into glycogen to store energy.
But an unhealthy liver might not perform its functions effectively and efficiently. There are many liver diseases but one of the serious liver diseases is the “Liver Cirrhosis”. Liver cirrhosis is a liver problem that could be fatal if not treated on time.
The symptoms, causes, treatment and preventive measure for the liver cirrhosis are discussed in this article.
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
Liver Cirrhosis means the scarring of the liver. Liver cirrhosis is caused by many factors and risk factors. There are different stages of this disease. Due to excessive alcohol consumption and due to the effects of some diseases as well as strong medications our liver gets injured. Each time the liver is injured or damaged it repairs itself.
In the process of repairing the liver, certain scar tissues formed within and over the surface of the liver. With the passage of the time, these scars tissues grow in size and number and hinder the function of the liver. As the stage of liver cirrhosis progresses it becomes more life-threatening.
Liver cirrhosis is fatal and chronic because usually the damage caused by liver cirrhosis cannot be reversed or undone. But there are high chances of preventing serious damages to the liver if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed in early stages.
What are the Stages of Liver Cirrhosis?
There are four stages of liver cirrhosis, the fourth stage is the most serious and fatal of all. The risk of treatment is very low at this stage and it could lead to the death of a person.
Hepatitis – it is the first stage of liver cirrhosis in which liver inflammation happens.
Steatosis – This is the second stage of this chronic liver disease in which fatty deposits like cholesterol and fats start to accumulate within the liver.
Fibrosis – The third and most crucial stage in which the stiffness of liver increases and at this stage mild scarring begins in the liver.
Cirrhosis – It is the fourth and last stage of the disease. At this stage, the liver has an increased number of scared tissues and is fully damaged.
The cirrhosis is further classified in two different categories, which are compensated or decompensated liver cirrhosis.
Compensated Cirrhosis – It is the type of cirrhosis in which the liver cope up with the disease/health problem and maintains its functions.
Decompensated Cirrhosis – In this case, the damage is so critical and deep that the liver could not maintain its functions or performs inadequately. People with decompensated cirrhosis are likely to have other serious symptoms and complication and their life quality and life span also reduce.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis:
To avoid the severe and fatal condition of liver cirrhosis it is important to observe the signs and symptoms and reach out for medical treatment on time. The signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis usually become prominent when the liver is damaged is extensive. The symptoms and signs such as:
Cirrhosis often has no signs or symptoms until liver damage is extensive. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Easily bleeding or bruising
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Edema - Swelling in your legs, feet or ankles
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Jaundice - Yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes
- Ascites - Fluid accumulation in your abdomen
- Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
- Redness in the palms of the hands
- Slurred speech
- Hepatic encephalopathy
- For women:
- Absent or loss of periods not related to menopause
- For men:
- Gynecomastia - loss of sex drive
- Breast enlargement
- Testicular atrophy
If you observe any of these symptoms and warning signs in yourself or someone else, it is possible that you are suffering from liver cirrhosis. Watch for these signs and symptoms and consult your doctor or general physician immediately. Any delay in the treatment may worsen the condition of your liver and can cause serious impacts even death.
What Causes a Liver Cirrhosis?
There is a wide number of factors which can lead to liver cirrhosis. These factors can be both medical or health-related and other factors based on the type of diet and habits we adopt.
Medical Risk Factors:
Liver cirrhosis is the scaring of the liver which can be triggered by chronic diseases and health problems. It means liver cirrhosis is associated or linked with certain medical conditions such as:
- Chronic Viral Hepatitis - Hepatitis B, C, and D
- Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - Accumulation of fats and cholesterol in the liver
- Hemochromatosis – Elevated level of iron due to iron buildup in the whole body
- Cystic fibrosis
- Wilson’s Disease – Accumulation of copper in the liver
- Biliary Atresia – Poor formation of bile ducts
- Deficiency of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin
- Galactosemia or Glycogen Storage Disease – Inherited sugar metabolism disorders/disease
- Alagille Syndrome – A genetic digestive disorder
- Auto-immune Hepatitis – A liver disease caused by the immune system
- Primary Biliary Cirrhosis – Destruction of bile ducts
- Primary Sclerosing of Cholangitis – It is the hardening and scarring of the bile ducts
- Syphilis infection
- Brucellosis infection
- Use of Strong and Hard medications such as methotrexate or isoniazid
Risk factors of Liver Cirrhosis:
The liver is the organ which filters and cleans our blood from waste and other toxic materials. But excessive use of certain substances can damage the liver and stops its functions. Some of the risk factors of liver cirrhosis include:
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- Obesity or Overweight – Increases the risk of liver cirrhosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
- Viral Hepatitis
What is the Treatment of Liver Cirrhosis?
If the liver cirrhosis is detected during the early or initial stages there are high chances if controlling the diseases with changed lifestyle, habits, and medications. But if the disease enters in its 3rd or last stage, it could not be treated with medication. The only option or treatment at the last stage is a liver transplant otherwise liver cirrhosis can cause the death of the person. In some cases, people can survive without a liver transplant for years. Because our liver is capable of performing its functions even it’s fully damaged.
Preventive Measure for Liver Cirrhosis:
Liver cirrhosis is a preventable and treatable disease. it could be treated with a liver transplant or with medications. The preventive measures to reduce the risk of liver cirrhosis include:
- Limiting the use of alcohol or stop drinking at all.
- Treatment for viral infections such as Hepatitis B and C.
- Protecting the liver from any fat accumulation to prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases and other severe liver diseases.
- Taking precautions, treatment, and medications for auto-immune hepatitis.
- Controlling and minting your blood cholesterol levels.
- Changing your eating habits and diet
- Controlling and managing the blood sugar level
- Managing the high blood pressure
- Drinking sufficient amount of water
- Refrain from smoking
- Stop the use of illicit drugs
- Avoid use of hard or strong medications or excessive use of any medication
- Go for physical activities
- Improve your digestive system
Complications Caused by Liver Cirrhosis:
Liver cirrhosis can cause many serious and fatal liver and other health complications such as:
- Portal Hypertension – High blood pressure or hypertension in the veins that supply blood to the liver. The pressure on liver veins increases in a result of slow blood flow through the liver.
- Swelled Legs and Abdomen – Cirrhosis increases the pressure in the portal veins and as result the fluid from the liver accumulated in the legs and abdomen. The accumulation of fluid in legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites) causing swelling in these regions. In this condition, the liver may not be able to make enough blood proteins such as albumin.
- Bleeding – Hypertension produces in the liver portal veins pours the blood into smaller veins. And as a result of stained pressure, these smaller veins burst and cause serious bleeding.
- Enlarged Veins – Due to hypertension in the portal veins, there are chances of veins enlargements in the esophagus and stomach. This enlargement of veins could be life-threatening.
- Splenomegaly – A condition in which the spleen gets enlarges due to hypertension and constant swelling of the spleen. The consequence of this condition is the entrapment of white blood cells and platelets.
- Infections like bacterial peritonitis.
- Malnutrition and sudden weight loss
- Physical weakness
- Hepatic Encephalopathy – Buildup of toxins in the brain release from the liver as a result of cirrhosis.
- Bone Diseases
- Higher risk of liver cancers
- Acute-on-chronic Cirrhosis
Liver cirrhosis can lead to serious complications and hence it is very important to get medical treatment for this disease. The delay can reduce the chances of treatment and cure and also increases the chances of liver cancer and other health problems.
It is recommended to talk to your doctor or general physician if you are experiencing any signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis. Early treatment of liver cirrhosis can reduce the risk of liver damage and it could be cured without a liver transplant.