Cirrhosis is characterized by a late-onset slow progressive scarring of the liver. Over time, the healthy tissue of the liver is replaced by the scar tissue, ultimately leading to liver dysfunction.
Causes and Symptoms of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a common liver disorder caused by alcohol abuse, fatty liver, hepatitis and chronic viral infections. Other causes include blockage of the bile duct, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune conditions and excessive storage of glycogen in the body.
The symptoms associated with cirrhosis vary with the developmental stages and can either be due to the direct manifestation of the disease or its causes. In most cases, however, the symptoms may not be visible in the initial stages. Some of the symptoms that may become visible are:
In some individuals with cirrhosis, the skin, eyes, nails and fingers start showing discoloration by turning pale yellow, similar to jaundice.
Edema or swelling is the most common symptom and can be noticed in the limbs and abdomen that swell because of fluid retention.
Indigestion and stool color:
Many experience indigestion, change in stool color and occasional blood in the stools.
- Hepatic encephalopathy:
An increased concentration of ammonia and nitrogenous substances in the blood may result in loss of memory, change in sleep patterns, decreased metabolism and a reduced response to medicines.
A reduced response to medicines and possible causes of the cirrhosis can reduce immunity and increase susceptibility to various infections.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is not a communicable disease, but it is often preceded by conditions like hepatitis and fatty liver, which makes it essential to have a proper diagnosis and find the right treatment.
A biopsy of the liver is considered the “gold standard” for diagnosis, and doctors use the individual’s platelet count to identify the stage of the disease. Liver ascites and spider angiomata may also help establish the progression of the disease along with liver function test, complete blood count and blood albumin levels.
Although the disease is progressive in nature, various treatment models are used to treat and manage cirrhosis.
Endoscopic surgery is used to dilate the veins to open the closed ducts. The doctors then remove any excess fluid from the body to improve the liver’s functioning. More advanced cirrhosis may require a liver transplant.
Medications and vaccinations:
Doctors may prescribe vaccinations for hepatitis C, hepatitis B, influenza and pneumonia to avoid infections. Certain antibiotics have may also be beneficial in managing late-onset infections associated with the lungs, liver and intestine. Vitamin K supplements could reduce bleeding, while diuretics could help with the fluid retention.
Once diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, doctors usually recommend making lifestyle modifications like reduced alcohol intake, a healthy diet and regular exercise.
While cirrhosis of the liver can be a life-threatening condition if discovered in its later stages, lifestyle modifications, medications and possible surgery might help manage the condition when caught early.
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