Liver cirrhosis: Stages, Causes and Symptoms

Liver Cirrhosis

Liver is important and a person cannot survive without liver. Liver does a lot of different functions and when the liver is affected by cirrhosis it cannot perform its important functions which include:

  • Makes important proteins.
  • It helps in blood clot whenever there is a bleeding due to a cut.
  • It makes bile for food digestion in the stomach.
  • It purifies and removes toxins and waste from the blood.
  • It stores and distributes vitamins, minerals, fats and sugars to be used by the body. It is responsible for organizing the vital energy that sustains us.
  • It helps prevent infections.

What is liver cirrhosis?

Liver cirrhosis happens over time. The disease begins when healthy liver cells are damaged and inflamed(swell). The dead cells in an inflamed area are replaced by scar tissue, which is also known as fibrosis. Cirrhosis is a condition where scar tissue builds up too much.

Liver cirrhosis can lead to problems in many areas of our body.

Firstly, cirrhosis causes problems by decreasing the number of healthy liver cells. Without enough healthy liver cells, an individual’s liver can’t do all of the essential jobs it needs to.

The second problem is that liver cirrhosis will shrink and harden a person’s liver which limits the blood circulation. Without enough blood flow, the liver will not be able to work properly.

A healthy liver should filter out waste and toxins. If the liver isn’t working properly, the toxins have no way to get into the blood and can cause problems.

The third problem is that less blood flow through the liver can create a build-up of pressure. The pressure is so much and builds up just like when water in a hose is kinked. This is called portal hypertension. The blood is forced back into the spleen which can also cause swelling, distended (enlarged) veins, and internal bleeding in other areas of the body.

Causes of Liver Cirrhosis

The most common reasons one might develop or be diagnosed with liver inflammation or liver cirrhosis are:

  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Fat builds up in the liver

Other less common causes are auto immune disorders, genetic disorders, certain medications, and some dangerous chemicals.

Levels of Cirrhosis:

Cirrhosis of the liver can be classified into two stages: compensated and decompensated

Compensated cirrhosis is the beginning stage of liver cirrhosis. It has only less or no symptoms. Despite having scarring in certain parts of the liver, the liver still functions effectively enough to compensate for that.

If liver damage gets worse and severe, the person goes to the next stage of liver damage, called decompensated cirrhosis.

Decompensated cirrhosis is advanced liver cirrhosis and is complicated. At this point, a person’s liver will not be able to carry out the essential functions it needs to do. In other words, the liver starts to fail with its functions. When this happens the person feels tired, has poor appetite and loses weight.

Symptoms of decompensated cirrhosis:

To properly treat decompensated cirrhosis, one must understand the four symptoms.

  • Jaundice

Jaundice is yellowing of the eyes. It happens when the liver is not able to purify the blood normally. When someone is affected by jaundice suddenly, or when jaundice worsens, the liver function could be deteriorating or may have an infection.

  • Bleeding Varices

Bleeding varices is bleeding that happens in the esophagus or stomach. An accumulation of pressure in liver makes the blood vessels swell and burst. Blood bleeding varices is a very serious health problem and can put life at risk.

The symptoms of bleeding veins include vomiting blood and having black, sticky stools. When a person has either of these symptoms, they need immediate medical help.

    • Ascites

Ascites is an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. It happens when there is high pressure in the liver. The abdomen will become very large. It is uncomfortable to eat because the person may always feel full and breathing may become hard, especially when the person is lying down. Some patients who have ascites might have malnutrition when their body isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs. The ascites fluid become infected and cause serious health problems. When a person has ascites and has symptoms of sudden stomach pain and fever, they require medical attention.

    • Encephalopathy

Encephalopathy is a condition when there is a buildup of toxins in the brain. When the liver is not able to filter toxins and waste, they stay in our blood and get carried to the brain.

Following a diet plan is very important for people diagnosed with Liver cirrhosis. When the liver is not able to function properly, it may not be able to get the energy from the food we eat, instead fat and muscles stored will be used up. Changes in diet can help build nutrition and energy levels, and lessen cirrhosis symptoms.

A low salt diet helps lower fluid retention. Eating fewer processed foods, sauces etc., help enhance liver health.

Doctors and nutritionists recommend a high-protein diet to prevent malnutrition. Eating more meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese etc., can lessen the symptoms and keep the liver healthy.

The risk of liver damage is higher when the person consumes drink alcohol. A person with liver cirrhosis should avoid drinking alcohol.

Taking medications correctly will lower the symptoms and enhance the health of the liver.

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