Liver cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver is scarred and its function is severely impaired. The liver is a vital organ that performs numerous functions, including filtering toxins from the blood, producing bile to aid in digestion, and storing energy in the form of glycogen. When the liver is damaged, as in cirrhosis, these functions are impaired and can lead to a range of serious health problems.
Many types of liver diseases and conditions injure healthy liver cells, causing cell death and inflammation. This is followed by cell repair and finally tissue scarring as a result of the repair process. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the liver's ability to process nutrients, hormones, drugs and natural toxins (poisons). It also reduces the production of proteins and other substances made by the liver. Cirrhosis eventually keeps the liver from working properly. Late-stage cirrhosis is life-threatening.
Liver cirrhosis can be caused by a variety of factors, including chronic alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis (B and C), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, and certain medications. Other less common causes of liver cirrhosis include genetic disorders and chronic bile duct blockage.
In the early stages of liver cirrhosis, there may be no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, some are general and could easily be mistaken for symptoms of many other diseases and illnesses. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), swelling (edema) in your legs, feet and ankles, difficulty in thinking, memory loss, some may have personality changes, redness in the palms of your hands, fluid build-up in the legs and abdomen, and easy bruising and bleeding.
Liver cirrhosis can lead to several serious complications, including portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the veins that carry blood to the liver), oesophageal varices (enlarged veins in the oesophagus), ascites (fluid build-up in the abdomen), hepatic encephalopathy (brain function impairment due to liver disease), osteoporosis (brittle bones), infection of the fluid found within the abdominal cavity (spontaneous bacterial peritonitis) and liver cancer.
This typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, imaging studies, and sometimes a liver biopsy.
The patient's medical history, including any symptoms they may be experiencing and any risk factors for liver disease, such as alcohol consumption or viral hepatitis is examined. A physical examination may also be conducted to look for signs of liver damage, such as jaundice, enlarged liver, and fluid build-up in the abdomen.
Blood tests can help diagnose liver cirrhosis by measuring liver function and detecting abnormalities. These tests may include liver function tests, which measure the levels of enzymes and proteins produced by the liver, as well as tests for viral hepatitis and other liver diseases.
Imaging studies, such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, may be used to visualize the liver and detect any signs of scarring or damage. These tests can also detect any fluid build-up in the abdomen or oesophageal varices.
A liver biopsy involves taking a small sample of liver tissue for examination under a microscope. This test can confirm the presence of cirrhosis and determine the extent of liver damage.
In some cases, additional tests may be necessary, such as a fibro scan or elastography, which can also assess the degree of liver fibrosis or scarring.
It is important to note that early stages of liver cirrhosis may not show any symptoms and may only be detected through routine blood tests or imaging studies. Therefore, individuals who are at risk for liver disease, such as those with a history of alcohol abuse or viral hepatitis, should undergo regular screenings to detect any signs of liver damage early on.
The treatment of liver cirrhosis depends on the underlying cause and severity of the disease. In cases of alcoholic cirrhosis, the patient must stop drinking alcohol to prevent further damage to the liver. For non-alcohol related fatty liver disease the patient has to lose weight, follow a healthy diet and doing regular exercise. Medications can be used to manage symptoms and prevent complications. In severe cases, liver transplantation may be necessary.
There are several steps that can be taken to prevent liver cirrhosis. These include avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, getting vaccinated against viral hepatitis, maintaining a healthy weight, managing diabetes and high blood pressure, and avoiding exposure to toxins and chemicals.
In conclusion, liver cirrhosis is a serious condition that can have life-threatening complications. If you suspect that you may have liver cirrhosis, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, it is possible to manage the disease and prevent complications. However, prevention is always better than cure, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing liver cirrhosis.