Liver cirrhosis is a late-stage liver disease in which most of the liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, which indicates that the liver is now permanently and irreversibly damaged.

Every time the liver is injured and inflamed due to excessive alcohol consumption or infection, the liver tries to repair itself. And each time the liver repairs itself, scar tissue is formed. Due to this scarring, the blood flow through the liver tissue is blocked, resulting in a decreased ability of the liver to excrete drugs and toxins from the body. 

Signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis:

  • Fatigue.
  • Easily bruising or bleeding.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea.
  • Edema(Swelling) of the ankles, legs, and feet.
  • Weight loss.
  • Itching of skin.
  • Yellowish discoloration of the eyes and skin due to jaundice.
  • Ascites- A condition of fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Spider like blood vessels on the skin.
  • Clubbing of the fingers
  • For women, loss of menstrual cycle.
  • For men, loss of libido, testicular shrinkage, or gynecomastia.

Risk factors

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can be a potential risk factor for cirrhosis.
  • Being obese/ overweight increases the health risks that may eventually lead to cirrhosis
  • History of viral hepatitis can be a cause of developing chronic hepatitis which can eventually result in cirrhosis

Causes

A wide range of diseases and conditions that damages the liver can lead to cirrhosis.

  • Long-term alcoholism.
  • Viral hepatitis (hepatitis B, C and D).
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Hemochromatosis, a condition that causes iron accumulation in the body.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, in which liver cells are destroyed by the body’s immune system.
  • Destruction of the bile ducts.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Malformation of bile ducts, a condition known as biliary atresia.
  • Inherited disorders of glucose metabolism, such as galactosemia or glycogen storage disease.
  • Infection, such as syphilis or brucellosis.
  • Excessive use of medications like methotrexate or isoniazid

Complications

Liver cirrhosis can lead to many health complications:

  • Portal hypertension which is high blood pressure in the veins that supply the liver. This condition can further lead to edema and swelling in the legs and abdomen, enlargement of the spleen, 
  • Ascites which can further lead to bacterial peritonitis, a serious infection.
  • Malnutrition due to liver failure to process nutrients to the body.
  • Buildup of toxins due to liver malfunction. These accumulated toxins cause mental confusion and difficulty concentrating. This is known as hepatic encephalopathy. 
  • Jaundice which occurs when the diseased liver cannot remove enough bilirubin from the body.
  • Some people with cirrhosis tend to lose bone strength and are at increased risk of fractures.

Certain lifestyle changes can manage symptoms of Liver cirrhosis. 

Doctors may prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms or recommend surgical treatment like liver transplantation. This decision is dependent upon the Clinical condition of the patient

In severe cases of Liver cirrhosis doctor may recommend liver transplantation, in which the diseased liver is replaced with the donor’s healthy liver. 

Dr. Giridhar Reddy
Consultant Gastroenterologist

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