Cirrhosis is the most common problem that affects the liver among human beings. The disease itself progresses quite slowly. However, it keeps replacing the liver’s healthy tissues with scar ones. Eventually, this build-up of scar tissue interferes with the liver’s proper functioning.
Some of the ways in which it hampers the liver’s biological functions include blocking the flow of blood and slowing down the processing of hormones, nutrients, the body’s toxins and other drugs. The disease is also responsible for slowing down the liver’s production of protein in addition to some other substances that are vital for the body’s healthy functioning.
Primary Causes of Cirrhosis of the Liver
There are more than just a few reasons for this disease to develop in a person. In the United States, the most common reasons include a fatty liver, alcohol abuse and hepatitis C. However, there are other factors too that can cause severe damage to the liver, which in turn can causecirrhosis. Some of these include:
- Repeated instances of heart failure whereby a fluid takes refuge in the person’s liver.
- A highly fatty liver that is common among obese and diabetic people.
- Obstructions in the bile duct. This duct is responsible for transporting the secreted bile to the intestines, where it assists in digesting the fats.
- Viral infections of chronic nature affecting the liver which includes hepatitis B, C, and D. The latter though is extremely rare.
- Some inherited diseases can also be the cause of this liver disease. Examples of the same include:
1) Diseases related to the storage of glycogen. Here, the body is not able to synthesize glycogen, which is nothing but stored glucose and the body’s main energy source.
2) Cystic fibrosis.
3) Diseases like hemochromatosis (illness where an excessive amount of iron is absorbed and then deposited into the various organs of the body apart from the liver) and Wilson’s (above normal concentration of copper in the liver).
4) Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, which results in the absence of a certain enzyme from the liver.
Apart from these usual reasons, this disease can also be caused by the body’s reaction to certain drugs, parasitic infections and continuous exposure to toxins in the surrounding environment. However, these kinds of causes are very rare.
Primary Symptoms of Cirrhosis of Liver
The symptoms of this disease vary to a great degree as per its stage of progression. Early possible signs of cirrhosis are highly unnoticeable as not many symptoms are exhibited by the affected person. However, as the disease progresses towards greater proportions, the symptoms tend to worsen. Some of them are:
- Itching of the skin
- Notable loss in appetite levels
- Unexplained weight loss or sudden weight gain
- Extreme fatigue (lack of energy), which is of debilitating nature
- The skin turning yellow along with the eye’s white part (indicating jaundice)
- Passing stools with a light color. Blood mixed with stool is also possible
- Retention of fluid in the ankles, abdomen (an early possible sign of cirrhosis) and the legs
- Passing urine with a tint (usually orange or brown)
- Disorientation, confusion and unexplained changes in the personality
- Unexplained fever
Diagnosis of Cirrhosis of Liver
There are a number of methods to diagnose the presence of this disease. Some of them are listed below.
- Blood Tests: The blood is tested to check for the presence of any liver disease.
- Physical Examination: Such a test allows the doctor to examine the changes in the liver’s size and functions.
- Biopsy: A sample tissue from the liver might also be sought to confirm the presence of this disease.
- Surgery: In some extreme cases, this disease can be confirmed only by the observation of the liver through naked eyes. The same can also be done through a laparoscope.
- Other Tests: At times, some other tests can be commissioned to confirm the presence of this disease. They include CT scans, ultrasounds or radioisotope spleen and liver scan.
After Effects of Cirrhosis of Liver
There are a number of complications caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Some of them are life threatening or might lead to permanent damage of the body’s vital organs. These after effects and complications include:
- Variceal bleeding (which causes massive bleeding and fluid buildup in the abdomen region)
- A hampered thinking ability of the brain
- The blood’s oxygen levels are reduced
- The blood count changes
- Excessive bruising and bleeding
- A heightened risk of contracting infections
- Early menopause
- Males might develop breasts
- Muscle mass tends to waste
Treatment of Cirrhosis of Liver
As of today, there are no natural cures for cirrhosis or manmade ones for that matter. However, there are many medical treatments available that can delay the progression of this disease. This is achieved by minimizing the damage caused to the liver’s cells. This treatment is, however, dependent on the cause of the disease. Therefore the exact treatment procedure varies according to the parent disease a patient is afflicted by. Alcohol abuse, hepatitis infections, autoimmune diseases, Wilson’s disease and hemochromatosis, each of these has a different treatment method.
Patients with a severe form of this disease have no recourse to take except a liver transplant.
Prevention of Cirrhosis of Liver
Prevention of this disease can be achieved by adopting certain methods and lifestyle choices like:
- Avoiding alcohol abuse. Drinkers should be careful as to how much alcohol enters their body. Contrary to popular belief, even moderate drinkers are at an increased risk of developing this dreaded liver problem. Anything more than two drinks a day significantly increases the overall risk. A single drink of wine measures 5 oz. while the corresponding figure for a can of beer is 12 oz. For hard liquor, the number is 1 ½ oz.
- Being careful around chemicals that are of synthetic nature like pesticides and cleaning products. Wearing some sort of protective gear (like a facemask) is highly advisable to those who come in constant contact with such harmful chemicals.
- Avoiding sexual intercourse with multiple partners. The same holds true for sexual behavior of high risk nature.
- Consuming a diet that is low on fat, rich in vitamins and minerals. Overall, an extremely well-balanced meal should be effective in keeping the body free from cirrhosis.