Cirrhosis : Causes, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
What is cirrhosis?
Like all organs in the human body, the liver has many vital functions – from producing essential blood clotting and bile chemicals, and removing harmful substances from the blood to storing indispensable vitamins and minerals such as iron and copper.
What makes the liver a wonderful organ is that it repairs itself. However, after many instances of repair, the liver cells can no longer repair themselves, and instead, scar tissue (fibrosis) begins to form.
When this scarring occurs repeatedly, complications involving loss of liver cells and irreversible scarring of the liver develop because the soft healthy tissues are replaced by hard scar tissues that make it difficult for the liver to function and this condition is called cirrhosis. Since there is no means for a person to survive without a liver, undiagnosed and untreated cirrhosis can become life-threatening.
Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad is here to help you keep your liver away from irreversible diseases or otherwise. We help you identify, diagnose and treat cirrhosis through the experts from our Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.
What causes cirrhosis?
Among various liver-related diseases that lead to cirrhosis, the most common causes include excessive consumption of alcohol, chronic viral hepatitis (A, B, & C), and fatty liver-related diseases. Listed below are some other common diseases leading to cirrhosis and their key causes:
Listed below are some other common diseases leading to cirrhosis and their key causes:
- Alagille syndrome (bile duct abnormalities/genetic digestive disorder)
- Alpha-1 (antitrypsin deficiency)
- Biliary atresia (bile duct scarring and blockage)
- Cystic fibrosis (leading to a blockage)
- Galactosemia (inherited disorders of sugar metabolism)
- Hemochromatosis (iron build-up in the body)
- Primary biliary cirrhosis (auto-immune liver disease)
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis (inflammation/scarring in the bile duct)
- Wilson’s disease (copper build-up in the liver)
Although rare, one must be aware of complications like chronic heart failure, prolonged toxin exposure, infections such as syphilis or brucellosis, and allergic reactions to certain drugs that lead to cirrhosis.
What are the symptoms and signs of cirrhosis?
There are very few or no symptoms of liver disease in the initial stage. What makes cirrhosis more serious is that patients feel healthy unless certain tests are done which can only detect it. Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre shares this grave concern with you as we put before you a list of symptoms to watch out for.
Although it is a fact that more than half of the liver is damaged before a patient develops symptoms, all listed symptoms don’t suggest that the liver is their cause; they may as well be caused by diseases apart from liver infection for which one needs to consult with our experts –
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
- Loss of appetite
- Appetite loss
- Easy bruising /Swelling (feet, ankles, legs)
- Weight loss/mental confusion
- Decrease in sex drive, enlargement of breasts, shrinking testicles (in men), or missing periods (in women)
What are the risk factors for cirrhosis?
A risk factor is something that raises a person’s chances of developing a disease. Here are several common risk factors that raise the chances of getting cirrhosis:
- Drinking an excess amount of alcohol
Alcohol is toxic for liver cells as it damages the liver by changing how the body breaks down food. Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cirrhosis.
- Having Hepatitis
Hepatitis (B & C) infections are caused by exposure to the body fluids of an infected person. Although everyone with chronic hepatitis will not develop cirrhosis, when left untreated, liver inflammation and injury occur which can lead to cirrhosis.
- Being overweight
Excessive amounts of fat build-up in the liver will only increase the risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) which can lead to cirrhosis.
- Drinking an excess amount of alcohol
How can cirrhosis be diagnosed?
Since early-stage cirrhosis does not usually show symptoms, cirrhosis remains undetected until tests are done during routine blood tests or check-ups. Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre is always ready to help you with a diagnosis for which we provide laboratory and imaging tests along with a biopsy.
- Lab tests
Signs of liver malfunction, such as excess bilirubin and certain enzymes that indicate liver damage can be checked through blood tests. Our specialists will check you for hepatitis viruses and creatinine, and your international normalised ratio (IN) will also be checked for your blood’s ability to clot. The test result determines how far you have been infected so that the best treatment plan is formulated accordingly.
- Imaging tests
These tests include CT and MRI scans, Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE), and also ultrasound of the abdomen which our specialists will recommend to detect various liver diseases. These scans will identify enlarged and unusual livers, inflamed spleens, and any fluid build-up in the abdomen which indicates cirrhosis.
Although this may not always be necessary, our specialists may recommend a biopsy wherein the tissue sample is taken to check on the scarring tissue for proper diagnosis.
Additionally, this may be used to identify the severity, extent, and cause of liver damage, and the appropriate treatment can then be planned.
- Lab tests
What are the treatments for cirrhosis?
For us to give you the best treatment to minimize the damage to the liver, it is vital to identify the underlying causes of cirrhosis which means treatment becomes patient-specific.
Intake of alcohol should be completely stopped and hepatitis can be treated most effectively with the right medication to treat the viral infection.
Patients with fatty liver-related cirrhosis, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, and weight must be controlled.
Accumulation of excess fluid may require certain procedures to drain the fluid or even surgery to relieve pressure; secondary infections, internal bleeding, and hepatic encephalopathy require taking specific medicines. When cirrhosis cannot be treated and the liver ceases to function, a liver transplant may be the only treatment option.
Who to consult for cirrhosis treatment?
There is no doubt that cirrhosis is an irreversible condition and hence, cannot be cured.
But our experts at the Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre are ever ready to help you identify the causes, make an accurate prognosis and offer you the best treatment that will reduce the effects of cirrhosis.
For any query on cirrhosis and its treatment, please feel free to reach out to us on our official website www.yashodahealthcare.com
Or book an appointment with our Gastroenterology & Hepatology specialists, Dr Manish Kumar Gupta and Dr Sushrut Singh by calling us at 09810922042.