The liver is located on the top of the stomach, right kidney and intestines. It is shaped like a ball and is dark reddish-brown in color. Liver has got quite vital jobs to perform: it detoxifies the blood, forms enzymes that are very essential in digesting food, storing sugar and nutrients and fighting infections. The liver manages most chemical levels in the blood and expels a product known as bile. Whereas, in cirrhosis, healthy liver tissues are swapped with scar tissues and the liver goes out of work permanently.
The scar tissue obstructs the flow of blood via the liver and affects the organ’s ability to process nutrients, hormones, natural toxins and drugs. Furthermore, it also decreases the process of manufacturing the proteins and other substances formed by the liver.
Liver cirrhosis can be explained as a late-stage liver disease in which scar tissues slow down the functions of the liver. In this disease, the liver forms more tough scar tissues hindering the functioning of the organ, gradually, destroying it.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol intake may put a person at high risk of liver cirrhosis.
- Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis: NASH is a kind of liver inflammation and igniting by the fat in the liver. It is considered to be an aggressive form of fatty liver disease and may lead to advanced stages i.e., liver cirrhosis or liver failure.
- Chronic Hepatitis B: It is an infection which signifies that a person’s immune system was not capable enough to get rid of the hepatitis B virus. A person infected to this virus is likely more prone to liver cirrhosis.
- Chronic Hepatitis C: Chronic hepatitis C can be defined as a short-term illness but no doubt can be the cause of other serious diseases such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- Liver history: Having a history of liver disease might lead to cirrhosis.
- Inherited diseases:
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (abnormal protein in the liver)
- Hemochromatosis (excess iron in the liver).
- Wilson disease (excess copper in the liver).
- Cystic fibrosis (sticky, thick mucus builds up in the liver).
- Glycogen storage diseases (when liver is unable to store or break down glycogen, a form of sugar).
- Alagille syndrome
- Rare disease, known as Amyloidosis, which can be explained as an abnormal deposit in the liver of an abnormal protein identified as amyloid interrupts normal liver functions.
Liver tends to restore itself from the fats or other hepatitis but somehow, a liver can never heal itself from the scar of cirrhosis. Although, multiple precautions can be taken to protect the liver from further damages.
- A healthy diet with all the required nutrition can be a plus point.
- Say a big no to oily food and an unhealthy lifestyle. Stick to a healthy weight.
- Excessive intake of alcohol might lead to more damage, so reduce the intake of alcohol or drugs.
- Minimize the risk of Hepatitis B and C.
- Quit smoke and drugs which are often harmful to the body.
- Avoid high-risk activities, such as swapping needles for illicit drug use or having risky sex that can lead to hepatitis B or C infections.
Actually, there are not many detectable symptoms or signs of liver cirrhosis. People might feel fully healthy and still get diagnosed with abnormal blood or liver infections. People might be diagnosed with chronic liver disease in regular ultrasound who are on a very early stage, or have compensated cirrhosis.
Signs and symptoms of an advanced liver cirrhosis patient:
- Swelling of the abdomen may occur due to accumulation of fluid (ascites)
- Swollen ankles and feet (pedal oedema)
- Widened blood vessels on the upper chest and arms
- Enlargement of spleen (splenomegaly)
- Drowsiness or confusion feeling because of incapability of the liver to break toxins in the blood (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Swollen veins in the esophagus and stomach that is matured due to obstruction of blood flow in the liver (varices)
- Vomiting (blood) or passage of black stools (variceal bleeding)
- Yellowish color of the eyes and skin (jaundice) along with dark, tea-colored urine
Tests and Screening
There are few tests and screening to detect liver cirrhosis:
- Imaging of liver (ultrasound, CT or MRI of the liver)
- Liver stiffness measurement using Fibro scan (non-invasive)
- Liver biopsy (a small sample is taken from the liver tissue)
Treatment of Liver Cirrhosis
- Underlying cause of liver cirrhosis:
- Alcoholic people who are diagnosed with liver cirrhosis should reduce the intake of liquor and if they find it difficult then they can surely ask their doctors to recommend a treatment program for alcohol addiction.
- Patients with chronic hepatitis B and C shall begin medication to treat this disease. Medication could restrict the further damage to the liver cells done by Hepatitis B or C.
- Patients with autoimmune hepatitis might need treatment with steroids.
- Treatment of complicated liver cirrhosis:
- Decrease the over fluid in the body. A low-sodium diet and medication could be helpful in limiting ascites and swelling by preventing the fluid buildup in the body. More-severe fluid build-ups might need surgery or others methods to drain the fluid out of the body.
- Portal hypertension. People might need to intake certain blood pressure medications in order to manage the increased pressure in the veins that are directly supplied to the liver. Endoscopy is to be done at regular intervals to keep an eye on the enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach that may bleed.
- Hepatic encephalopathy. Certain medications are prescribed to lessen the buildup of toxins in the blood, which is happening due to malfunctioning of the liver.
- Liver Transplant Surgery
A diseased liver is swapped with a complete whole healthy liver from another person. Liver transplant is an operation that can be an only cure for liver insufficiency or liver failure.