Cirrhosis is a slowly progressing disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with a scar tissue, eventually preventing the liver from functioning properly. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs, and naturally produced toxins. It also slows the production of proteins and other substances made by the liver.
According to the National Institutes of Health, cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death by disease.
How Cirrhosis Develops
The liver is a very hearty organ and is normally able to regenerate damaged cells. Cirrhosis develops when drinking excess alcohol or chronic infections are present over a long period of time. This deadly disease causes the liver to shrink and harden, restricting the nutrient-rich blood to flow into the liver from the portal vein. The portal vein carries blood from digestive organs to liver. The pressure in portal vein rises when blood cannot pass into the liver, causing a serious condition called portal hypertension. This is a high-pressure system which leads to esophageal varices (like varicose veins) that can burst and bleed leading to an instantaneous death in approximately 20 patients.
Common Causes of Cirrhosis
|1. long-term viral Hepatitis C
|2. Chronic Hepatitis B infection
|3. Excessive Alcohol
|5. Inflammation caused by autoimmune disease
|6. Damage to the bile ducts
|7. Disorders such as hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.
that affect the body’s ability to handle iron and copper such
|8. Medications including prescription and over-the-counter drugs like some antibiotics,and antidepressants
The symptoms of cirrhosis occur because the liver is unable to purify the blood, break down toxins, produce clotting proteins, and help with absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Often there are no symptoms until the disorder has progressed. Some of the symptoms include:
- decreased appetite
- nose bleeds
- jaundice (yellow discoloration)
- small spider-shaped arteries underneath the skin
- weight loss
- itchy skin
- confusion and difficulty thinking clearly
- abdominal swelling (ascites)
- swelling of the legs (edema)
- gynecomastia (when males start to develop breast tissue)
Diagnosis of Liver Cirrhosis
A diagnosis of cirrhosis begins with a detailed history and physical exam. Your doctor will take a complete medical history. The history may reveal long-term alcohol abuse, exposure to hepatitis C, family history of autoimmune diseases, or other risk factors. The physical exam can show signs such as:
Complications from Cirrhosis
-- bruising (due to low platelet count and/or poor clotting)
-- bleeding (due to decreased clotting proteins)
-- sensitivity to medications (the liver processes medications in the body)
-- kidney failure
-- insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
-- liver cancer
If treatment for these complications becomes ineffective, a liver transplant is considered. Almost all of the complications can be cured by liver transplantation; however, in many circumstances, careful management can reduce the harmful effects of cirrhosis and delay or even prevent the need for a liver transplant.