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Symptoms and causes of cirrhosis

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Cirrhosis is a condition where the liver is severely scarred. This condition is also characterised by poor liver function which is generally seen at the terminal stages of chronic liver disease. Such scaring often happen because of long-term exposure to toxins like alcohol or viral infections.

Importance of liver

Liver is very important for your body. It produces bile which is essential in absorption of fats, cholesterol and vitamins A, D, E and K. It also helps in storing sugar and vitamins for later use by your body. It also purifies your lard by removing toxins like alcohol and bacteria from your body. It creates blood clotting proteins.

Development of cirrhosis

As search liver is a very hardy organ and it can regenerate damaged cells. If because of some reasons such as alcohol or chronic viral infections any damage happens to the liver and it stays for some time, then the lever may become injured and scarred. Such a liver cannot function properly and it may result in cirrhosis. When cirrhosis happens your liver will shrink and harden. If that happens, the nutrient rich blood will not be able to flow into the liver from the portal vein, which carry blood from the digestive organs to the liver. If the blood cannot pass into the liver, the pressure in the portal vein will rise which will cause portal hypertension, which is a serious condition. Ultimately portal hypertension will result in oesophageal varices, which will burst and bleed in future.

Causes

There may be many causes of liver cirrhosis but the most common causes include long-term viral hepatitis C infection and chronic alcohol abuse. In many people obesity also causes cirrhosis. Obesity is a risk factor and it becomes more dangerous if it happens when the patient is alcoholic or suffering from hepatitis C.

If you are a woman and you drink more than two drinks every day, cirrhosis may happen in your case. Such drinks include beer and wine besides any other alcoholic drinks. In case of men, drinking more than three drinks every day is going to cause liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis happens in case of people who have been drinking for a long time (10 to 12 years).

People may also suffer from liver cirrhosis because of hepatitis C infection. This disease can be contracted through sexual intercourse or infusion of infected blood or blood products. If the needle you used was contaminated, it can cause hepatitis C. That is why tattooing, piercing, needle sharing, intravenous drug abuse are some of the common causes of hepatitis C.

Some other causes of liver cirrhosis may include-

Hepatitis B– because of hepatitis B liver inflammation and damage may happen which can result in cirrhosis.

Hepatitis D– if you are suffering from hepatitis D, it may also cause cirrhosis. This problem is generally seen in case of people who are already suffering from hepatitis B.

Inflammation resulting from autoimmune disease-autoimmune diseases may cause inflammation in some people. Autoimmune hepatitis often cause such inflammation and it is more common in case of women.

Symptoms of cirrhosis

Some of the most common symptoms which help in identification of cirrhosis are-

  • decreased appetite
  • nose bleeds
  • jaundice (yellow discoloration)
  • small spider-shaped arteries underneath the skin
  • weight loss
  • anorexia
  • itchy skin
  • weakness

More serious symptoms include:

  • confusion and difficulty thinking clearly
  • abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • swelling of the legs (edema)
  • impotence
  • gynecomastia (when males start to develop breast tissue)

References

1. Liver Disease Survivors Guide – Cirrhosis
2. Cirrhosis
3. Alcoholic liver disease