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Cirrhosis of liver

Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver does not function properly due to long-term damage.

What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is a slowly progressing disease of liver in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, eventually preventing the liver from functioning properly. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the processing of nutrients and hormones. It also slows the production of proteins and other substances made by the liver.

What Causes Cirrhosis of the Liver?

Common causes of cirrhosis are:

People who drink alcohol which is more than 60 ml of whisky daily at are high risk of liver damage. Desi and English wine are equally bad and can cause significant liver damage. Beer is also a form of alcohol and causes liver damage and cirrhosis.

Patient who has chronic hepatitis B or C and not taking treatment can suffer from cirrhosis and its related problem. In India now fatty liver is one of the commonest causes of liver cirrhosis. All these common causes can be prevented if diagnosed early and treatment started early.

What Are the Symptoms of Cirrhosis of the Liver?

The symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver vary with the stage of the illness. In the beginning stages, there may not be any symptoms. As the disease worsens, symptoms may include:

How is cirrhosis of the liver diagnosed?

A doctor can easily diagnose cirrhosis if he is an expert in this field.Just by doing simple physical examination and doing some blood tests which will include liver function tests,ultrasound abdomen (or CT scan), or another specialized procedure like Fibroscan one can easily diagnose cirrhosis of liver.

What complications are caused by cirrhosis of the liver?

Ascites: Patient with cirrhosis can develop swelling of legs and abdomen. The accumulation of fluid in the abdomen is called ascites. This can be treated with drugs and decreasing the intake of common salt.

Vomiting of blood: Some patients with cirrhosis can have vomiting of blood.This is an emergency and immediately patient need to be admitted. It can also be controlled by endoscopy and certain drugs. However patient need to see his doctor for repeated testing and sometimes endoscopy is repeated to control future bleeding episodes.

Confused thinking and other mental changes (hepatic encephalopathy): Some patients go into altered sensorium and need to be admitted for treatment.

Most of these complications can initially be treated with medicines or dietary changes. Once treatment for these complications becomes ineffective, a liver transplant is considered. Almost all of the complications can be cured by liver transplantation; however, in many circumstances, careful management can reduce the harmful effects of cirrhosis and delay or even prevent the need for a liver transplant. Development of ascites, vomiting of blood or altered sensorium indicates advanced liver disease and one need to think of liver transplantation in these patients.

What is the treatment for cirrhosis of the liver?

Although there is no cure for cirrhosis of the liver, there are treatments available that can stop or delay its progress, minimize the damage to liver cells, and reduce complications.

The treatment used depends on the cause of cirrhosis of the liver.

Medications may be given to control the symptoms of cirrhosis. Edema (fluid retention) and ascites (fluid in the abdomen) are treated, in part, by reducing salt in the diet. Drugs called diuretics are used to remove excess fluid and to prevent edema from recurring. Diet and drug therapies can help improve the altered mental function that cirrhosis can cause. Laxatives such as lactulose may be given to help absorb toxins and speed their removal from the intestines.

Liver cirrhosis is an irreversible damage to the liver; however, in many cases its further progression can be halted by appropriate measures.