Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Cirrhosis

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The liver is a very hardy organ and is normally able to regenerate damaged cells. Cirrhosis is a condition that arises when alcohol and chronic viral infections are present in the liver for a long time. Alcohol and chronic viral infections are factors that damage the liver. This situation causes injury to the liver and makes it to become scarred. A scarred liver functions abnormally, there by resulting in cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes the liver to shrink and harden. This makes it difficult for nutrient-rich blood to flow into the liver from the portal vein.


Causes of Cirrhosis


Long-term viral hepatitis C infection Chronic alcohol abuse
Obesity
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis D
Autoimmune disease inflammation
Bile ducts damage
Hemochromatosis
Medications like acetaminophen,
some antibiotics, and
some antidepressants, can lead to cirrhosis


Symptoms of Cirrhosis

The symptoms of cirrhosis occur because the liver is unable to purify the blood, break down toxins, produce clotting proteins, and help with absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Often there are no symptoms until the disorder has progressed. Some of the symptoms include:
Decreased or loss of appetite
Nose bleeding
Jaundice
Small spider-shaped arteries underneath the skin
Weight loss
Anorexia
Itchy skin
Weakness
Confusion
Thinking difficulty
Abdominal swelling (ascites)
Swelling of the legs
Impotence
Gynecomastia

 

Diagnosis
After a detailed history has been made, physical examination will be followed by the doctor. The history may reveal long-term alcohol abuse, exposure to hepatitis C, family history of autoimmune diseases, or other risk factors. The physical examination can show signs such as: Pale skin Yellow eyes (jaundice) Reddened palms Hand tremors An enlarged liver or spleen Small testicles Excess breast tissue (in men) Decreased alertness
The doctor will order for tests to reveal how damaged the liver has become. Some of the tests used for evaluation of cirrhosis are:
Complete blood count (to reveal anemia)
Coagulation blood tests (to see how quickly blood clots)
Albumin (to test for a protein produced in the liver)
Liver function tests
Alpha fetoprotein (a liver cancer screening)
Upper endoscopy (to see if esophageal varices are present)
Ultrasound scan of the liver MRI of the abdomen
CT scan of the abdomen
Liver biopsy (the definitive test for cirrhosis)

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Complications from Cirrhosis Bruising (due to low platelet count and/or poor clotting)
Bleeding (due to decreased clotting proteins)
Sensitivity to medications (the liver processes medications in the body)
Kidney failure
Liver cancer
Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
Hepatic encephalopathy (confusion due to the effects of blood toxins on the brain)
Gallstones (interference with bile flow can cause bile to harden and form stones)
Esophageal varices
Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
Edema and ascites

 

Treatment for Cirrhosis Beta blockers or nitrates (for portal hypertension)
Quitting drinking (if the cirrhosis is caused by alcohol)
Banding procedures (used to control bleeding from esophageal varices)
Intravenous antibiotics (to treat peritonitis that can occur with ascites)
Hemodialysis (to purify the blood of those in kidney failure)
Lactulose and a low protein diet (to treat encephalopathy)
Liver transplant
Change in lifestyle: stop drinking alcohol and cigarette


Prevention

Engage in safe sex with condoms to reduce the risk of getting hepatitis B or C.
Stop intake of alcohol
Eat a balanced diet
Engage in regular exercise



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