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Cirrhosis of the liver is a serious disease in which healthy liver tissue are replaced by fibrosis (scarring). It is a disease that progresses slowly, and often in the early stages, does not show any symptoms. However, with the deterioration of liver function may occur serious problems and, in severe cases, it may be necessary a transplantation of liver.
Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition in which healthy of liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue is damaged, losing its ability to function properly. Fibrosis affects the problems with blood flow through the liver, which increases the pressure within them blood vessels (the so-called portal hypertension).
The causes of liver cirrhosis
There are many causes of scarring in the liver, which is cirrhosis, but the most common of them belongs heavy alcohol consumption and infection with hepatitis C.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is caused by disruption of liver cells by excessive amounts of alcohol. However, alcoholic cirrhosis does not occur only in alcoholics, and it may also apply to those who drink alcohol regularly, although with moderation. It is not clear why some people are more susceptible to the appearance of the disease since it does not belong to those transmitted genetically.
Viral hepatitis C contributes to the appearance of liver cirrhosis due to prolonged inflammation appearing in the liver. On average, every fifth person suffering from hepatitis C also suffers from cirrhosis of the liver.
Less common causes of the disease include:
- chronic infection with hepatitis B,
- autoimmune hepatitis – as is weakened, the immune system of the liver, which begins to produce antibodies active against healthy cells.
- diseases causing bile duct obstruction,
- excess weight and obesity increase the risk of non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver,
- severe reactions to certain drugs,
- some of poisons and environmental toxins,
- certain infections caused by bacteria and parasites from tropical countries,
- severe heart failure – which can increase blood pressure rise and cause congestion;
- some of the rare hereditary diseases that can cause damage to the liver cells as the hemochromatosis or Wilson’s disease.
The symptoms of liver cirrhosis
Early stages of the disease show no symptoms since the liver is functioning properly despite the limited number of working cells. Over time, the accumulation of scar tissue makes liver:
- can not provide a sufficient amount of body protein such as albumin, responsible for the regulation of body composition,
- has difficulty producing adequate quantities of substances responsible for blood clotting,
- has problems with the processing of chemicals in the body, which they can accumulate,
- is less susceptible to the treatment of medicines, toxins and other substances that can build up in the body.
The symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver are the most frequently:
- general fatigue and weakness,
- swelling in the legs and abdomen – ascites,
- loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting,
- weight loss (but may also appear weight gain associated with the accumulation of body fluids),
- prone to bleeding and bruising,
- yellowness of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice caused by an accumulation of bilirubin),
- pain associated with toxin accumulation,
- mental health changes resulting from the accumulation of toxins,
- swelling in the veins, mucous membranes, and stomach,
- rectal bleeding, stool blood.
Diagnosis and treatment of liver cirrhosis
Physical examination and assessment of symptoms is the basis for the diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver. Blood tests are used to demonstrate irregularities in the activities of the liver. Liver damage can, in turn, be assessed by ultrasound or biopsy. Sometimes it is necessary, an additional test for antibodies against the hepatitis viruses.
Treatment of liver cirrhosis is not easy, but the earlier the disease is detected, the greater the chances of stopping its progression. In general, damage in the form of scarring are irreversible, so treatment is based primarily on preventing further changes or slow down the process of scar formation.
To stop the progression of the disease it is necessary to:
- cessation of alcohol use,
- prudent use of medicines,
- proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle,
- appropriate treatment of illness associated with liver cirrhosis,
- attention to good blood pressure.
In very severe cases of liver damage becomes necessary, a liver transplant.
Untreated cirrhosis can cause the appearance of some diseases, including cancer as the liver cancer, also increases the susceptibility to dangerous infections and is life threatening.