Cirrhosis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

Cirrhosis refers to a condition in which the scar tissue gradually replaces your healthy liver tissue, preventing the liver from working properly. The flow of blood through your liver will also be partly blocked by scar tissue. If cirrhosis gets worse, your liver will begin to fail.

Cirrhosis is a complication of many liver diseases and conditions such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism. It develops slowly over the years.

In the United States, about 1 in 400 adults have cirrhosis. Also, cirrhosis is much common in people aged 45 to 54. About 1 in 200 aged 45 to 54 has this condition. Furthermore, the number is believed to be higher in consideration of many undiagnosed cases.

Symptoms

Many people don’t have any symptoms until the condition is very serious. If early symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Loss of weight without trying
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mild pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen

As liver function gets worse, other symptoms that may occur involve:

  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Confusion, difficulties thinking, memory loss, personality changes, or sleep disorders
  • Swelling in your lower legs, ankles, or feet
  • Bloating from the uildup of fluid in your abdomen
  • Severe itchy skin
  • Darkening of the color of your urine
  • Jaundice

Complications

Complications of cirrhosis involve:

  • High blood pressure in the veins that supply the liver (portal hypertension)
  • Infections
  • Malnutrition
  • Buildup of toxins in the brain (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Bone disease
  • Increased risk of liver cancer
  • Acute-on-chronic cirrhosis

Causes

Various diseases and conditions can lead to cirrhosis.

The most common causes include:

  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic hepatitis C
  • Chronic hepatitis B

Less common causes include:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Diseases that damage, destroy or block bile ducts
  • Inherited liver diseases
  • Long-term use of certain medicines
  • Chronic heart failure with liver congestion

Diagnosis

Cirrhosis is often first detected during a routine blood test or checkup. A doctor may confirm a diagnosis by ordering:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests may be ordered to check for signs of liver malfunction and certain enzymes indicating liver damage.
  • Imaging tests. A noninvasive advanced imaging test called magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) can detect hardening or stiffening of the liver. Other imaging tests that may also be done include MRI, CT and ultrasound.
  • Biopsy. If necessary, a biopsy may be used to identify the severity, extent, and cause of liver damage.
  • Endoscopy. This test helps the doctor look out for swollen blood vessels which can be a sign of cirrhosis.

Treatment

Treatment for cirrhosis is based on the cause and extent of liver damage.

Treatment for the underlying cause of cirrhosis

Options include:

  • Treatment for alcohol dependency

Stopping drinking will benefit people whose cirrhosis is caused by excessive alcohol use. When necessary, a treatment program for alcohol addiction may be recommended.

  • Weight loss

People with cirrhosis resulting from fatty liver disease can improve the condition by losing weight and controlling blood sugar levels.

  • Medications to control hepatitis

If hepatitis B or C is causing damage to liver cells, medications may be helpful.

  • Medications to control other causes and symptoms of cirrhosis

The progression of certain types of liver cirrhosis may be slowed by some medications.

Besides, other medications and nutritional supplements may be used as well.

Treatment for complications of cirrhosis

  • Excess fluid in your body

A low-sodium diet and medication can prevent fluid buildup in the body. But if the fluid buildup is severe, procedures to drain the fluid or surgery to relieve pressure may be needed.

  • Portal hypertension

To treat portal hypertension, your doctor may recommend certain blood pressure medications that can control it and look for varices that may bleed with an upper endoscopy at regular intervals.

If varices occur, you may need medication to reduce the risk of bleeding. If the varices are likely to bleed or are bleeding, a procedure that helps stop bleeding or reduce the risk of further bleeding should be considered. Placing a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt in the vein to reduce blood pressure in your liver is reserved for the worst cases.

  • Infection

For infection, you may need antibiotics or other treatments.

  • Increased liver cancer risk

Since cirrhosis increases your liver cancer risk, your doctor will likely order blood tests and ultrasound exams regularly to look for signs of liver cancer.

  • Hepatic encephalopathy

The buildup of toxins caused by poor liver function can be reduced by medications.

Liver transplant surgery

When the cirrhosis causes liver failure, a liver transplant is usually the only option. If you have alcoholic cirrhosis and want to treat it with transplant surgery, you should:

  • Find a program working with people who have alcoholic cirrhosis
  • Meet the requirements of the program

Prevention

You can do the following things to care for your liver and reduce the risk of cirrhosis:

  • Avoid alcohol if you have liver disease
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce your risk of hepatitis

In addition, you can consult your doctor for more methods to lower the risk of developing the condition.


Keyword: cirrhosis.

Related Posts:

What is Non-Alcoholic Cirrhosis Liver?

What are the Stages of Cirrhosis?

What is the Diagnosis and Treatment of Liver Cancer?

What’s the Connection between Pheochromocytoma and Liver?

How to Define the Final Stages of Liver Cirrhosis?

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.