Cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver brought about by long-term damage. The scar tissue prevents the liver from functioning properly.
The condition can eventually lead to liver failure where the organ ceases to function which can be deadly. Nevertheless, it takes years for the condition to reach this phase and treatment can help in slowing down its progression.
What is the cause?
The usual causes of cirrhosis include the following:
- Excessive intake of alcohol for many years
- Infected by hepatitis for a long time especially hepatitis C
- Non-alcohol steatohepatitis – this is a severe form of non-alcohol fatty liver disease where the liver is inflamed due to the accumulation of excess fat
It is important to note that drinking large amounts of alcohol can impair the liver cells. Cirrhosis linked to alcohol generally develops after 10 or more years of heavy drinking. Women who drink excessively are at higher risk to end up with liver damage than men. This is partly due to their different build and size.
What are the indications?
An individual will not have any symptoms during the initial phase of cirrhosis. Once the liver becomes significantly damaged, the individual might:
- Feel excessively weak and tired
- Lose appetite
- Feel nauseous
- Reduced sex drive
As the condition worsens, additional symptoms that might arise include:
- Itchy skin
- Yellowish-tinged skin and white part of the eyes
- Vomiting blood
- Swollen legs or abdomen due to the build-up of fluid
- Tendency to bleed or bruise easily
- Dark, tarry stool
Management of cirrhosis
Even today, there is no available cure for cirrhosis, but it is possible to manage the symptoms and any complications that might arise as well as slow down its progression.
Management of the underlying cause such as anti-viral medications for the hepatitis C infection can also stop the condition from worsening. The individual is also instructed to limit or stop the consumption of alcohol or cut down weight if overweight.
A variety of alcohol support services are available as well. In case the liver is significantly scarred, it might cease to function. In such cases, a liver transplant is the only suitable option.