Cirrhosis of the liver is the deterioration of the liver due to scar tissue that has developed replacing the normal healthy tissues of the liver. This disease can develop for numerous reasons and for the majority of individuals who have this condition more than one cause has contributed to its development.
The most common causes of cirrhosis are alcohol abuse and hepatitis C. When this scar tissue develops on the liver it is irreparable and in its beginning stages cirrhosis may be asymptomatic – meaning that an individual will have any symptoms -, however, as the liver continues to deteriorate further complications will arise and may be the first indication that an individual has this disease.
Causes of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis of the liver has many potential causes with one of the most common be alcohol. The abuse of alcohol over time damages the liver creating scar tissue and is the leading cause of death in patients with cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis C is the second leading cause of cirrhosis and spread by the contact of human blood that is infected with hepatitis C.
Hepatitis causes the liver to become inflamed and when it is left untreated over time this inflammation damages the liver creating scar tissue. Other causes of cirrhosis include hepatitis B and D, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, inherited diseases, infections, drugs, toxins, and other diseases that cause damage to occur to the bile ducts of the liver.
Symptoms and Complications of Cirrhosis
When scar tissue begins to replace the healthy tissue within the liver, this can cause an impairment or loss in liver functioning. An individual may be asymptomatic in the earliest stages and then begin to experience symptoms that include, unexplained weight loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, itching, veins will develop that appear to be spider-like, and the build up of fluid within the abdomen that will cause bloating and abdominal pain. As this disease begins to progress, many complications will arise and often times these complications are the first indication of cirrhosis and leads to its diagnosis.
As the liver begins to lose its functioning edema will occur which is the swelling caused by a build up of fluids within the body that typically begins to appear in the lower extremities. Swelling of the abdomen may also occur – ascites – and this can lead to a serious infection that is called “bacterial peritonitis”.
An individual may bruise or bleed easily due to the fact that the liver produces the proteins that are body needs to aid in the clotting of our blood. Portal hypertension can also occur which is pressure that is increased within the portal vein and this can cause the expansion of blood vessels in the esophagus or stomach that have the potential to burst and cause an individual to bleed seriously requiring emergency medical attention. Gallstones can also develop from the build up of bile within the gallbladder, and jaundice which is the condition that causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow.
Treatment of Cirrhosis
The treatment of cirrhosis depends greatly upon how far the disease has progressed as well as the complications it may have caused. The goal when treating cirrhosis is to stop any further damage from scar tissue occurring such as the immediate cessation of the consumption of alcohol if that is the cause of the cirrhosis.
When cirrhosis is ignored or left untreated, it can become a life threatening condition that will require a liver transplant in order for survival. If you suffer from cirrhosis of the liver, it is essential that you follow all of the recommended forms of treatment prescribed by your doctor to prevent any further damage from occurring that can lead to total liver failure.