The liver is an important organ and it produces clotting proteins that are necessary for the blood to clot, and for removing toxic substances that can be harmful to the body, such as drugs. The liver also plays an important role in regulating the supply of glucose and fat that the body uses as fuel. In cirrhosis the liver cells’ ability to add or remove substances from the blood are diminished or destroyed. Bile produced by liver cells has two main functions: to aid in digestion and to remove/eliminate toxic substances from the body. Due to Cirrhosis the liver is not able to eliminate toxic substances normally, and they accumulate in the body. Thus, Cirrhosis is the scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis often has no signs or symptoms until the damage is extensive. Common signs and symptoms of cirrhosis may be:
- Fatigue & Weight loss
- Easily bleeding or bruising
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling in your legs, feet or ankles (oedema)
- Itchy skin
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites)
- Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
- Redness in the palms of the hands
- Loss of periods in women not related to menopause
- For men, loss of sex drive, breast enlargement or testicular atrophy
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
Causes of Liver Cirrhosis
There are a number of diseases and conditions that can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis.
Some common causes include:
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Chronic Hepatitis B, C and D
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Iron buildup in the body
- Cystic fibrosis
- Copper accumulated in the liver (Wilson’s disease)
- Poorly formed bile ducts
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
- Inherited disorders of sugar metabolism
- Genetic digestive disorder
- Liver disease caused by your body’s immune system (autoimmune hepatitis)
- Destruction, Hardening and scarring of the bile ducts
- Infection, such as syphilis or brucellosis
- Medications, including methotrexate or isoniazid
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Obesity increases the risk of conditions leading to Cirrhosis, like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
- Chronic hepatitis may be one of the world’s leading causes of liver disease
Liver Cirrhosis may lead to complications like:
- High blood pressure in the veins Cirrhosis slows the normal flow of blood through the liver, thus increasing pressure in the vein that brings blood to the liver from the intestines and spleen.
- Swelling in the legs and abdomen Increased pressure in vein can cause fluid to accumulate in the legs and in the abdomen (ascites). Edema and ascites also result from the inability of the liver to make enough of certain blood proteins, like albumin.
- Enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly) Increased pressure in the veins can also cause changes to and swelling of the spleen, and trapping of white blood cells and platelets. First sign of cirrhosis may be decrease white blood cells and platelets in the blood
- Bleeding Strained by the extra pressure, these smaller veins can burst, causing serious bleeding. High pressure in veins can also lead to bleeding in the esophagus or the stomach and can be life-threatening. Continuous bleeding will happen if the damaged liver is not able to make enough clotting proteins
- Infections Having cirrhosis, may make it difficult for the body to fight infections. Ascites can also lead to bacterial peritonitis, a serious infection.
- Malnutrition Cirrhosis makes it difficult for the body to process nutrients, leading to weakness an weight loss.
- Buildup of toxins in the brain Once, a liver is damaged by cirrhosis, it is not able to clear toxins from the blood as well as before. These toxins, when they build up in the brain may cause mental confusion and difficulty concentrating which can progress to unresponsiveness or coma.
- Jaundice Jaundice occurs when the diseased liver isn’t able to remove bilirubin, a blood waste product, from your blood. It causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes and darkening of urine.
- Bone disease People with cirrhosis lose bone strength and are at greater risk of fractures.
- Increased risk of liver cancer liver cancer is common among amongst people who have pre-existing cirrhosis.
- Acute-on-chronic cirrhosis. Researchers believe that many people end up experiencing multi-organ failure while suffering from Cirrhosis.
Ways to prevent
Here are a few ways to care for your liver:
- Avoid alcohol if you have cirrhosis
- Eat a healthy diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein instead fatty and fried food
- Maintain a healthy weight and create a weight-loss plan if you are obese or overweight.
- Stop sharing needles, having unprotected sex to reduce the risk of hepatitis B and C. Get vaccinated for hepatitis