According to the National Center of Health Statistics report of June 2006:
“Cirrhosis and chronic liver disease remain the # 11 leading cause of death in the United States. It kills over 25,000 people per year. Cirrhosis affects twice as many men as women.”
What is cirrhosis? What are the causes? What happens to your liver and how do you feel when you have it.? What can you do if you get it?
This article will reveal some answers to these questions and more about cirrhosis.
WHAT IS CIRRHOSIS?
Word Net: “defines cirrhosis as a chronic disease interfering with the normal functioning of the liver” The two major causes of this life threatening disease are alcohol abuse and hepatitis C. Alcohol abuse is the leader of the two.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER CAUSES OF CIRRHOSIS?
Some medications, both prescribed and over the counter can cause damage to the liver which may lead to cirrhosis. For example acetaminophen in large doses. Salicylates in doses over 2 grams daily. Lamisil and methotrexate.
Prolonged exposure to environmental toxins can lead to liver damage.
Blocked bile duct, causes the bile to back up in the liver instead of being sent to the gallbladder for storage this eventually leads to cirrhosis of the liver.
Autoimmune diseases happen when the immune system does not recognize it’s own cells and tissues and attack it self thinking they are bacteria leading to liver damage.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This is a liver inflammation which is caused by a build up of fat in the liver. The exact cause of NASH is unknown. However obesity, high levels of triglycerides and diabetes are contributing factors.
Inherited diseases such as:
Hemochromatis, where-in the body absorbs too much iron. This excess iron is stored in the liver, pancreas and other organs. This is the most common inherited disorder in Australia.
Wilson disease, which is a build up of too much cooper in the liver.
Photoporphyrias, this is a disorder that affects the skin, bone marrow and the liver.
WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE LIVER?
The liver is responsible for more than 300 jobs that makes your body function well.
It is an amazing organ that is efficient, effective and dependable when it is in good working order. Some of its responsibilities are:
Production of bile which is stored in the gall bladder and is necessary for digestion.
Production of immune agents that are necessary to control infection.
It filters toxins from the blood.
Its responsible for the production of the clotting factor to control bleeding.
The liver stores energy.
The liver controls the amount of sugar, protein and fat in the blood stream.
It produces proteins for the absorption of fats and other vitamins.
It breaks down alcohol and drugs.
As you can see the liver plays vital roles in the proper functioning of the body.
WHEN CIRRHOSIS OCCURS.
The liver tissue becomes fibrous and scarred and nodules may occur. This causes a progressive decrease in the functioning of the liver. The scarring obstructs the blood flow within the liver leading to liver failure.
Depending on the severity of damage to the liver, over a period of time the following symptoms may occur:
Loss of appetite.
Spider like blood vessels on the skin.
There may also be nosebleeds.
Clubbing of the finger tips.
The fingernails may appear white instead of looking pink.
A red face is another characteristic appearance of cirrhosis.
As the disease progresses other complications may occur.
Edema which is the retention of fluid in the legs.
Ascites which is the retention of fluid in the abdomen.
Varices which are enlarged veins in the stomach or esophagus can occur along with vomiting of blood.
Gallstones may develop along with jaundice.
Portal hypertension may develop due to blood pressure build up in the vein entering the liver.
The major complication is liver failure. This causes extreme fatigue and encephalopathy with confusion that eventually leads to coma.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
If cirrhosis is suspected, blood tests, ultra sound and a CT scan may be done and a liver biopsy.
Damage to the liver is irreversible. The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the disease. Treatment depends on the cause of the cirrhosis.
If the cause is alcohol abuse: Stop drinking alcohol and seek help for alcoholism.
Avoid illegal drugs.
If the cause is hepatitis your doctor will prescribe medications to treat the hepatitis.
A liver transplant is the last resort. 80%- 90% of liver transplant patients survive.
TO PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE TO THE LIVER.
Live a healthy life style. Stay active as much as you can.
Eat a healthy low sodium diet, this will prevent fluid build up.
Avoid eating raw oysters and other shell fish.
There are some organs in the body that a person can live without.
A person cannot live without a liver. When it fails watch out the price is high.
For more information visit:
Or call the American Liver Foundation.
24/7 Helpline 1-800-465-4837
Hepatitis Foundation International