The liver is one of the most vital organs in the human body. It has an innate ability to recover and regenerate itself from any disease-induced injury or minor damage. In case of severe injuries, the liver loses its ability to reverse the damage caused to it till the patient receives medical assistance.
One such severe damage to the liver fibres is liver cirrhosis. It is late-stage scarring of the liver tissues caused by chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis B or C and excessive alcohol intake. Another major cause of the disease is poor lifestyle choices.
Causes of Liver Cirrhosis
Liver cirrhosis is a disease where the liver is subject to irreversible scars, which hinder the healthy functioning of the liver. This disease has many factors that include:
- Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD): Consuming alcohol in excessive amounts leads to fat deposits on the liver walls. This layer of fats in the initial stages of AFLD can be reversed by restricting alcohol intake, provided we detect the disease early.
- Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH): NASH is a disease wherein poor lifestyle choices lead to the deposit of fat mass layers on the liver walls. The fat mass on the liver hampers the functioning of the liver, which struggles to restore itself to its initial healthy stage, intensifying the scars on the liver walls.
- Chronic Hepatitis: Chronic liver diseases, including hepatitis B and C, severely inflames the liver, forming scar tissues on the liver fibres. Initially, these scars do not show any symptoms of liver damage. As the disease progresses to an advanced stage, the symptoms become more visible, and at this stage, we can not reverse these damages.
- Liver Cancer: Hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer, mutates in the liver cells in a carcinogenic (cancerous) manner, leading to a cancerous tumour. This tumour forms scar tissues on the liver, disrupting normal functioning.
- Iron buildup in the body (Hemochromatosis): Excessive iron present in the body causes Hemochromatosis, where the body cannot process the excess iron settled on the liver walls. This extra iron in the body scars the liver walls causing severe damage to the liver tissues. If we leave this disease unattended, it leads to liver cirrhosis and will require a liver cirrhosis treatment.
- Wilson’s Disease: Wilson’s disease is the presence of excessive amounts of copper in the body. This excess copper settles on the liver walls causing severe damage to the liver cells and scaring them. This damage caused to the liver cells further leads to liver cirrhosis.
Besides these, there could be other causes, including biliary atresia, galactosemia, Alagille syndrome, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis and overdose of some medicines that cause damage to the liver.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis has almost zero symptoms in the initial stages. When the disease progresses to an advanced stage, people notice some signs such as:
- Easy bleeding and bruising
- Loss of appetite
- Oedema (Swelling in the limbs due to water accumulation)
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen)
- Redness in the palms
- In women, irregular or absence of periods (not related to menopause)
- In men, gynecomastia and testicular atrophy
- Hepatic encephalopathy (State of confusion and lack of clarity due to fluid accumulation in the brain, often caused because of liver disorders)
Once you notice any such symptoms, it is advisable to consult your doctor immediately.
Problems arising from liver cirrhosis
A liver transplant surgery is the only remedy for liver cirrhosis treatment . If you fail to detect the disease and get it cured, it could lead to severe problems that include:
- Hypertension in the Portal veins that supply blood to the liver
- Oedema and Ascites, the swelling of limbs and abdomen
- Splenomegaly, swelling of the spleen
- Continued bleeding and hampered blood clotting
- Exposure to disease-causing pathogens
- Severe malnourishment
- Hepatic encephalopathy (the buildup of toxins in the brain)
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Bone diseases
- Increased susceptibility to liver cancer
- acute-on-chronic liver cirrhosis
A liver transplant surgery is the only remedy for liver cirrhosis treatment . So it is advisable to take preventive measures against the disease rather than getting infected.
You can prevent the disease by following the essential preventive measures that boost your immunity or reduce your vulnerability to liver cirrhosis.
- Restrict alcohol intake: Limit the use of alcohol within the healthy limits (below 8 alcoholic beverages per week for women and below 15 alcoholic drinks per week for men). If possible, avoid alcohol to reduce the long-term risks.
- Balanced diet and exercise: It is imperative to maintain a healthy diet to avoid increasing fat mass in the body. Include regular physical activity in your daily routine to reduce the unhealthy fat levels in the body.
- Reduce the risk of hepatitis: Hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and makes the liver susceptible to further damage. So it becomes vital to follow preventive measures against hepatitis.
If you know any person or relative having liver cirrhosis, reach out to us at the Chennai Liver Foundation in Chennai for details regarding liver transplant surgery and preventive measures. We also help people that require a liver transplant surgery