Cirrhosis symptoms may develop gradually and in some cases no symptoms will be noticed, but when symptoms of cirrhosis do occur they can include a range of health problems from indigestion to confusion and impotence. This article shares what cirrhosis is, what causes it and how you can treat the disease to prevent further health complications.
Cirrhosis is defined as a chronic disease of the liver that leads to scarring and decreased function or failure of the liver.
Cirrhosis Symptoms And Causes
Early symptoms are not always present but when they are they may include:
- Abdominal indigestion or pain
- Enlarged liver that may be felt in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
If the condition goes undetected or untreated additional symptoms may occur including:
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
- Dark urine
- Visible blood vessels under the skin that resemble spiders (spider angiomas)
- Nose bleeds or bleeding gums
- Hair loss
- Swelling in legs and abdomen
- Bowel movements that may contain blood, be loose or discolored (i.e. dark, pale or clay-colored)
- Increased bleeding or bruising
- Impotence, loss of interest in sex and breast development in men (gynecomastia)
- Confusion or problem solving difficulties
Cirrhosis is an inflammation of the liver that is typically caused by long-term abuse of alcohol or Hepatitis C infection.
Other causes include autoimmune inflammation of the liver, disorders involving the drainage system of the liver (the billiary system) such as primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, Hepatitis B, medications, metabolic disorders of iron and copper (i.e. hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), or exposure to chemicals.
Cirrhosis Diagnosis And Treatment
Diagnosis may be initiated by the observation of the aforementioned symptoms by a person with the disease. If symptoms are noticed, a consultation with a medical doctor is necessary. To form a proper diagnosis a physical examination will be performed, which may include analysis of blood for the presence of anemia, clotting problems or low serum albumin.
Additional test of the urine or imaging test such as x-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT), or Ultrasound of the abdomen may be performed. A biopsy of the liver can confirm the presence of cirrhosis.
Treatment includes making changes to one’s lifestyle, including avoiding alcohol if it was a causative factor in the disease and eating a nutritious diet that is low in salt. A physician may prescribe iron supplements to counter the increase in bleeding, diuretics may be prescribed to reduce swelling, and antibiotics may be used if an infection is present.
Damage already suffered by the liver cannot be reversed but early detection can stop the progression of the disease. If the disease is allowed to progress a procedure called transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) may be necessary to help blood flow more efficiently in your liver, stomach, esophagus and intestines, and then back to your heart. If cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant may be necessary.