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Today in Health & Wellness
HEALTH CONDITIONS

Liver Cirrhosis

Overview
Symptoms
Risk Factors
Treatment and Management
Home Remedies
Doctors to Consult
Overview

The liver carries out many essential body functions. It produces bile which helps the body digest food and absorb dietary fats, cholesterol and vitamins A, D, E and K. It purifies the blood by removing toxins such as alcohol and drugs from the system. The liver also stores sugar and vitamins for later use and manufacture blood proteins that aid in clotting, oxygen transport and immune system function.

Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver and is the last stage in many forms of liver diseases and conditions. Liver cirrhosis is irreversible but further damage can be prevented if diagnosed early. As cirrhosis progresses, more scar tissues form, making it difficult for liver to function. The scar tissues block the flow of blood through the liver and slow or limit its function.

Symptoms
  • Decreased appetite
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Weight loss or anorexia
  • Small spider-shaped arteries underneath the skin
  • Weakness
  • Brownish or orange tint to the urine
  • Itchy skin

More serious symptoms include:

  • Confusion and difficulty in thinking clearly
  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Swelling of the legs (edema)
  • Impotence
  • Gynecomastia (males start to develop breast tissue)
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever

How is Liver Cirrhosis Diagnosed?

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests are done to find if liver disease is present.
  • Endoscopy reveals if there is bleeding.
  • CT Scan, MRI and ultrasound
  • Biopsy is a definitive test for cirrhosis. A sample tissue (biopsy) is taken from the liver.

Complications from Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis can lead to the following conditions:

  • Enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Bleeding due to decreased clotting factors.
  • Toxin buildup in the brain (hepatic encephalopathy). Liver removes toxins from the body but a damaged liver is not able to remove toxins. The toxins can build up in the brain causing mental confusion and difficulty concentrating.
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin because a diseased liver does not remove enough bilirubin, a blood waste product from your blood.
  • Gallstones and bile duct stones
  • Bone disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney failure
  • Edema
  • Variceal bleeding
Risk Factors
When the liver is damaged, it tries to repair itself resulting to scar tissues. Anything that damages the liver can cause liver cirrhosis but it is most commonly caused by fatty liver, alcohol abuse and long-term hepatitis C. Here are other conditions that may cause cirrhosis of the liver:
  • Hepatitis B, C and D
  • Repeated bouts of heart failure with fluid backing up to the liver.
  • Fatty liver associated with obesity and diabetes (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • Hardening and scarring of the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • Infection by a parasite (schistosomiasis)
  • Inherited conditions such as:
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Poorly formed bile ducts (biliary atresia)
    • Iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis)
    • Inherited sugar metabolism disorders (galactosemia or glycogen storage disease)
    • Liver disease caused by your body's immune system (autoimmune hepatitis)
    • Copper accumulating in the liver (Wilson's disease)
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management

Treatment of cirrhosis includes early detection, preventing further damage to the liver, treating its complications and liver transplantation. Here are the things you can do to avoid further liver damage:

  • Quit drinking to halt the progression of cirrhosis.
  • Hemodialysis to purify the blood of those in kidney failure.
  • Doctor may prescribe beta blockers or nitrates for portal hypertension. For those with hepatitis, antiviral drugs or steroids may be prescribed to reduce liver cell injury.
  • Low sodium diet. Edema (fluid retention) and ascites (fluid in the abdomen) are treated by reducing salt in the diet.
  • Lactulose and low protein diet can help with encephalopathy and help absorb toxins and speed their removal from the intestines.
  • Weight loss. Lose weight to help control your blood sugar levels.
  • Monitor your medications. Even over-the-counter drugs should only be taken once approved by your doctor. Also, avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen which can worsen liver and kidney function.

 

Home Remedies
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Do not exceed more than 2 drinks a day as it can increase your risk for liver cirrhosis.
  • Be cautious against using synthetic chemicals such as cleaning products and pesticides.
  • Get a hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Eat a balanced diet which is low in fat and sodium. Increase intake of fruits and vegetables and take vitamins.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid fatty liver which can lead to liver disease.
Doctors to Consult
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