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Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is a progressive condition that occurs as a result of a complication of many liver diseases characterized by abnormal structure and function of the liver. When the liver cells get injured as a result of any liver disease, they die leading to the formation of scar tissue known as fibrosis, which can result to cirrhosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis

  • Yellowing of the skin due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching
  • Easy bruising from decreased production of blood clotting factors by the diseased liver

Stages of Cirrhosis of the Liver

  • Stage 1 cirrhosis: Involves some scarring of the liver, but presents few symptoms
  • Stage 2 cirrhosis: This stage includes worsening portal hypertension and the development of varices (when the veins are enlarged or swollen).
  • Stage 3 cirrhosis: Involves the development of swelling in the abdomen and advanced liver scarring. It marks decompensated cirrhosis (complications that occur as a result of advanced liver disease), with serious complications and possible liver failure.
  • Stage 4 cirrhosis: At this stage, it can be life-threatening, and people develop end-stage liver disease (ESLD), which is fatal without a liver transplant.

Complications of Liver Cirrhosis

  • High blood pressure in the veins that supply the liver
  • Swelling in the legs and abdomen
  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Bleeding
  • Malnutrition
  • Buildup of toxins in the brain (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Jaundice

Diagnosis of Liver Cirrhosis

Indicators of liver cirrhosis used by doctors during the diagnosis of the condition include symptoms of cirrhosis such as jaundice. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by doing blood tests to determine liver function.

Bilirubin and creatinine serum samples may also be taken to come up with a model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score. This is the model that is commonly used in the diagnosis of advanced liver disease.

Liver biopsy is at times recommended. During this procedure, doctors take a small sample of liver tissue for purposes of analyzing it. This way, the doctors can understand the extent to which the patient’s liver is damaged.

A series of imaging tests to look at the size and shape of one’s liver and spleen may also be used. They include:

  • MRI scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scans
  • Magnetic resonance elastography or transient elastography, which are imaging tests that detect hardening of the liver.

Treatment of Liver Cirrhosis

The treatment for liver cirrhosis is dependent on the cause of the patient’s liver damage. Thus, the objectives of the recommended treatment is to slow the progression of scar tissue in the liver and to prevent or treat symptoms and complications of cirrhosis. In case of severe damage, the patient may have to be hospitalized.

In the early stages of cirrhosis, it may be possible to minimize damage to the liver by treating the underlying cause whereby the options could include:

  • Treatment for alcohol dependency
  • Weight loss
  • Medications to control hepatitis
  • Medications to control other causes and symptoms of cirrhosis

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