Cirrhosis is a serious health condition that occurs when the liver is severely scarred and stops functioning properly. The scarring is caused by a toxic chemical known as acetaldehyde, which is produced when the body tries to break down alcohol. A 2014 study shows that viral infections can also cause scarring.
A report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that 1 in 400 people in the United States suffers from this condition. A survey carried out in 2015 shows that cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the US. In 2015, 42,443 people died as a result of the condition. While cirrhosis can affect both men and women, studies have shown that men are more prone to the condition.
Categories of Cirrhosis
Health experts usually grade the severity of cirrhosis on a scale known as Childs-Pugh.
Class A: Mild liver disease — 95% survival rate
Class B: Moderately severe liver disease — 75% survival rate
Class C: Very severe liver disease — 50% survival rate
Most times, the condition is diagnosed when it is in its final stage. This is because it decreases liver function gradually. One may start experiencing or noticing the symptoms when the liver is seriously damaged and unable to work properly.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Below are some symptoms associated with cirrhosis. These symptoms occur when the liver is unable to absorb fat and vitamins, break down toxins, and purify the blood.
- Itchy skin
- Weight loss
- Nose bleed
- Decrease in appetite
In severe cases, patients may experience the following symptoms:
- Vomiting blood
- Dark urine
- Difficulty walking
- Hair loss
- Swelling of the leg and abdomen
Diagnosis of Cirrhosis
Since cirrhosis usually doesn’t have early symptoms, it is typically diagnosed when patients are tested for other health conditions. Before carrying out any tests, your doctor will first ask about your lifestyle, medical history, and drinking habits. Next, they will carry out a physical examination. During the exam, they will check if your liver is enlarged.
Below are a few other tests they may do to determine if you have the condition:
- Imaging tests: MRI scans or ultrasounds are used to determine if the liver is scarred or enlarged.
- Endoscopy: Here, a specialized tube with a camera is used to inspect the stomach. During the test, your doctor will be on the lookout for varices (enlarged or swollen blood vessels).
- Blood test: This is done to determine how well the liver is functioning.
- Biopsy: During this procedure, a sample of the liver is collected and examined to see if a patient has cirrhosis or other health conditions.
How to Treat Cirrhosis
Health experts usually recommend a treatment based on the cause and the severity of the condition. Below are a few things they may prescribe:
- Medications: If the condition is caused by hepatitis C or B, your doctor may recommend some drugs. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if there is an infection.
- Alcohol dependency treatment: Your doctor will ask you to stop consuming alcoholic beverages if the condition is caused by the long-term consumption of alcohol. They may also recommend a program for treating alcohol dependency.
- Banding: During this procedure, a special band is placed around the varices. This will help control the bleeding.
- Sclerotherapy: This is usually done after an endoscopy. During the procedure, a substance is injected into the varicose veins to narrow them, causing them to collapse and re-direct blood into better functioning veins. This will also help reduce bleeding.
- Liver transplant: If nothing works, your doctor will recommend a liver transplant.
How to Manage Cirrhosis
Below are some natural remedies for cirrhosis. Make sure to consult your doctor before trying any of them.
- Milk thistle: Studies have shown that milk thistles have strong antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and increase cell regeneration. Even more, it can help prolong the life of people suffering from cirrhosis caused by alcohol.
- Ginseng: This is a herbal supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties. A study conducted a while back shows that ginseng can improve liver function and speed up liver cell regeneration.
- How can I prevent cirrhosis?
- Avoid or reduce your intake of alcohol
- Follow a balanced diet that is low in fat and carbs and high in protein
- Increase your water intake
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis B
2. What causes cirrhosis? According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), cirrhosis is caused by the following:
- Hepatitis B
- Alcohol-induced diseases
- Hepatitis C
- Fatty liver disease
- Long term use of drugs like anti-depressants and antibiotics
- Inherited liver disease
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!