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Liver Cirrhosis

  • What is Liver Cirrhosis?

    Liver cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver. The liver carries out many important functions, such as metabolism control, protein synthesis, vitamin and iron storage, bile production, as well as removal of toxins from the body. If the liver does not work properly, it can lead to severe complications and even death.

    Cirrhosis occurs when healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissues. Each time the liver is injured, it tries to repair itself. If the liver is continually injured, more and more healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissues, leading to liver cirrhosis.

  • Liver cirrhosis can be caused by different liver diseases and conditions. The main causes include:

    • Chronic alcohol consumption
    • Hepatitis B and C infections

    Other causes include:

    • Autoimmune hepatitis, a liver disease caused by the body’s own immune system
    • Frequent exposure to environmental toxins and drugs
    • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, caused by fat build-up in the liver
    • Poorly formed or blocked bile ducts, which cause the bile to accumulate in the liver
    • Primary biliary cirrhosis caused by destruction of the bile ducts that transport bile out of the liver
    • Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection common in developing countries
    • Wilson’s disease, caused by the build-up of copper in the liver
  • Liver cirrhosis patients may not show any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. However, when the disease develops and significant liver damage has occurred, you will experience the following symptoms:

    • Black stools
    • Changes in personality and confusion in severe cases
    • Tiredness and sleepiness
    • Ascites – fluid build-up in the abdomen
    • Itchy skin
    • Jaundice – yellowish eyes and skin
    • Loss of weight and loss of appetite
    • Nausea
    • Spider angiomas – red spider-looking spots on your chest and back
    • Sleeping difficulties
    • Oedema – swelling of the legs
    • Vomiting blood
  • Liver damage caused by cirrhosis is irreversible. However, treatment aims to prevent or delay further damage and complications. Treatment depends on the cause of the cirrhosis:

    • Cirrhosis caused by chronic alcohol abuse is treated by avoiding alcohol consumption
    • Cirrhosis caused by Wilson’s disease can be treated with medications that get rid of copper
    • Hepatitis-related cirrhosis is treated with medication, depending on the type of hepatitis infection
    • Liver transplant may be necessary for end-stage liver disease patients
    • Mental confusion due to high levels of toxins in the blood and brain
    • Portal hypertension – high blood pressure in the liver
    • Increased risk of liver cancer
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