What is cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is the final stage of chronic liver disease in which the liver begins to slowly deteriorate and malfunction. With cirrhosis, blood flow through the liver is blocked from scar tissue replacing healthier liver tissue. The scar tissue hinders the liver's everyday functions to control infections, remove bacteria and toxins from the blood, process nutrients, hormones and drugs, make proteins that regulate blood clotting, and produce bile to help absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
Causes of Cirrhosis
Common causes of cirrhosis, especially in the United States, are long-term Hepatitis C infection and long-term alcohol abuse.
Other potential causes are: autoimmune inflammation of the liver, disorders of the drainage system of the liver, long-term Hepatitis B infection, medications, metabolic disorders of iron and copper, nonalocoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Symptoms of Cirrhosis
Typically in the earlier stages of this liver disease, people will not show symptoms. But gradually, as the disease progresses, some may show symptoms of:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Spiderlike blood vessels on the skin
During a doctor's visit, if the physician feels that a risk factor for cirrhosis, such as alcohol or obesity use, is present, the physician will conduct a physical examination in which they will ask the patient about their medical history and if they have displayed any symptoms of this disease.
The physician may request for a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the liver to find signs of enlargement or reduced blood flow.
A liver biopsy can confirm the diagnosis of cirrhosis, but it is not necessary to determine if a patient is diagnosed with cirrhosis.
Complications with Cirrhosis
As the liver slowly deteriorates, complications may develop. Some complications include:
- Bleeding disorders
- Buildup of fluid in the abdomen and infection of the fluid
- Enlarged veins in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines that can bleed easily
- Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver
- Kidney failure
- Mental confusion, change in level of consciousness, or coma
Cirrhosis patients should make changes to their lifestyles to cope with the disease by:
- Ceasing intake of alcohol
- Limiting salt and eating nutritious diet
- Getting vaccinated for influenza, hepatitis A & B
Some patients may be eligible for liver transplants if they have reached the end-stage of cirrhosis. Typically, patients at this stage are still facing complications regardless of treatments.