2 million people in the world lose their lives to Chronic Liver Disease every year.
In simple terms, Cirrhosis is the term given to severe liver scarring. It is a result of the constant cycle of damage and repair. Every time we inflict some kind of damage on our Liver, it tries to repair itself. In the process, scar tissues are formed. The more this cycle continues, the more scars form. In advanced stages, the condition becomes life-threatening.
Liver Cirrhosis can eventually lead to many life-altering symptoms. These symptoms may range from Nausea and fatigue to memory loss and disorientation. The complications can have a major impact on the life of the patient and their family.
There are ways to manage the symptoms and eliminate the cause of the condition. But, unfortunately, it is not possible to reverse the scarring on the liver. However, detecting the disease at an early stage can facilitate efficient management. So, all individuals need to be aware of the disease, its symptoms, and ways to prevent it.
What are the common symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis? How can you prevent its development? Are there any possible treatments? Read ahead to find out!
Causes of Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a surprisingly common condition. Some may attribute it to poor lifestyle habits, or consumption of adulterated food. It is found to be more common among individuals after a particular age. This phenomenon may be because it develops gradually over time.
Many factors may act as Liver Cirrhosis Causes. These range from poor lifestyle habits to other underlying diseases. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of the condition:
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Goes without saying. Alcohol consumption is the biggest enemy of our liver. Every time we consume it excessively, we cause a lot of damage to our liver. People with a habit of alcohol abuse are very prone to this disease.
Also known as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Both viral and autoimmune hepatitis can make a person prone to cirrhosis of the liver.
Long-term usage of certain kinds of medicines may cause liver damage. Gradually, the individual may become vulnerable to liver diseases.
Liver Cirrhosis Symptoms
One of the scariest aspects of this condition is that significant symptoms do not show up until the liver damage becomes severe. Due to this, doctors and patients find it difficult to detect the disease at an early stage. At advanced stages, the condition becomes life-threatening. In severe cases, the patients are even prescribed liver transplants.
The symptoms of the disease also vary according to the stage of the liver damage. There are two Liver Cirrhosis Stages- Compensated Cirrhosis and Decompensated Cirrhosis.
In the beginning stages of Liver Cirrhosis, your liver tries to make up for lost liver function. The compensation is sufficient so that you will not notice any liver damage. The stage is termed as Compensated Cirrhosis.
Eventually, the liver damage becomes too much. Your body finds it difficult to compensate for the lost liver function. This is when the cirrhosis symptoms become actively visible. This stage is called Decompensated Cirrhosis. These symptoms may again be divided into two stages-
Symptoms of early stages:
Losing appetite and feeling Nauseous
Pain in the upper abdominal area, especially towards the right side.
Blood vessels are visible in a spider-like pattern
Feeling unwell in general
Symptoms of advanced-stage Cirrhosis:
Yellow-tinted skin and eyes
Light colored stool
Dark coloured urine
Feeling itchy, but without any skin rashes
Having difficulties digesting fat
Yellow fat deposit bumps on eyelids and skin
Weight loss and muscle loss, without any explanation
Difficulty controlling body movement
Experiencing disorientation or confusion, and in some cases, even memory loss
Is treatment possible?
Liver Cirrhosis Treatment is complicated because the condition involves permanent liver scarring. Regardless, doctors employ various methods to manage the condition and prevent it from worsening.
Since the scarring is permanent, it cannot be reversed. To manage the condition, doctors prescribe methods to eliminate the cause of liver damage. Treatment also aims to manage the complications of the disease.
Eliminating the cause:
There are two kinds of causal factors for cirrhosis-
Underlying Diseases, and
In the former case, doctors prescribe medications and treatments. The treatment aims to eliminate or manage the underlying disease. This is to prevent further liver damage.
In the second scenario, it is advised to discontinue the habits causing the damage.
Managing the complications:
Your healthcare service provider will evaluate and identify your symptoms, and possible complications. These complications may range from portal hypertension to liver cancer. Treatments will be prescribed to manage these complications.
The last option
In severe cases, doctors prescribe liver transplants. This happens in two cases. Either when the condition is worsening or the patient isn’t responding to the treatment. A liver transplant is also prescribed when the patient is in the middle of active liver failure. Additionally, in the case of Liver Cancer, a liver transplant is one of the treatment options.
Liver Cirrhosis is a very serious medical condition, with complicated treatment methods. In its case, the damage and the scarring on your liver can’t be undone. Even the treatment methods are very complicated. Hence, it is advised for everyone to take care of their liver. The best way to do so is to cultivate healthy habits & maintain a good lifestyle. It is also important to completely avoid consumption of alcohol, or keep it minimal.
Certain liver cirrhosis causes are uncontrollable, such as autoimmune disease. But, with whatever we have in our control, it is important to be mindful of our liver health.
That brings us to the end of this insightful journey to your liver and back. Tell me in the comments which topic you would like me to discuss next.
The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri
Dr. Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.