Cirrhosis is a disease that progresses quite slowly, causing serious interference with healthy functioning of the liver. The disease disrupts the flow of blood to the liver, gradually blocking the liver's ability to process necessary nutrients, hormones, toxins, fats, and even drugs.
Proteins and other substances that are produced in the liver are also affected. The liver's functions are necessary for supporting a variety of other processes necessary for maintaining a healthy body. This is why cirrhosis is considered such a serious disease.
Alcohol abuse and other causes of cirrhosis.
It's true that drinking in large quantities over a long period of time does serious damage to the liver. Women who drink heavily and those who have hepatitis B or hepatitis C are at a higher risk of developing liver damage. But not all heavy drinkers go on to develop cirrhosis.
Other causes of cirrhosis are also associated with damage to the liver. Some of these other causes include:
-Obesity and diabetes that create a fatty liver
-Blockage of the bile duct
-Several bouts of heart failure leading to fluid back up in the liver
-Diseases such as cystic fibrosis, glycogen diseases, certain enzyme deficiencies, hemochromatosis, and Wilson's disease.
Early signs of cirrhosis and how the disease develops.
In the very early stages of the disease, an individual may not notice any symptoms at all. Because it progresses slowly, it's important to take any unusual symptoms that do develop very seriously. Some of these include:
-loss of appetite
-a sudden drop in energy or fatigue
-sudden weight loss or weight gain
-being easily bruised
-symptoms of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
-swelling in the legs, ankles, and stomach area
-dark colored urine
-abnormal colored stool
-feeling confused, disoriented, or experiencing similar changes in your usual personality
-blood present in stool
It's important to see a doctor immediately if you begin to experience these symptoms and a drinking problem or other preexisting condition put you at risk. He or she will diagnose you for cirrhosis by doing several things:
First, performing a general physical exam to see how your liver feels and observe if there are any changes present.
-Having blood tests done to determine if the disease is present.
-Having a CT scan, ultrasound, or liver/spleen scan done.
-Taking a sample of tissue, or a biopsy.
-Surgery to inspect the liver itself.
Getting treatment for cirrhosis is an urgent matter if your doctor does indeed confirm that the disease is progressing in your liver. Left untreated, cirrhosis can cause several serious complications including:
-blockage and increased pressure in the veins of the body
-mental changes caused by the release of unfiltered toxins back into the bloodstream.
-reduced blood oxygen
-higher risk of infection
-changes in blood count
-increased bleeding and bruising
-reduced muscle mass
Treatment and prevention of cirrhosis.
Depending on what caused the cirrhosis to develop, treatment methods will vary. For someone who abuses alcohol, the drinking will need to be stopped.
Hepatitis or other diseases will need to be treated immediately. There are also medications that can be prescribed to help with the symptoms of cirrhosis. A patient with cirrhosis may also need to make specific diet changes.
There are many ways to lower your risk of developing cirrhosis as well. One is to get help for an addiction to alcohol. You will need an effective treatment plan to help you quit alcohol for good
. Also, avoid risky sexual behavior and practice safe sex as a habit. This will significantly lower your risk of contracting hepatitis. A healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight is also a good way to guard against cirrhosis.