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Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a chronic liver condition in which scar tissue slowly replaces healthy liver cells. It causes irreversible damage to the liver tissue, and it normally occurs over time. Cirrhosis is often caused by infection, other disorders, or alcoholism. 

Most of the time, you cannot repair the damage to your liver. Various therapies can help to control the situation if detected early. However, this condition can be life-threatening if left untreated. It can lead to severe complications such as liver cancer and liver failure.

Cause and Risk Factors

This condition occurs as a result of another liver problem. If you do not treat the cause, it will worsen over time, and your healthy liver cells will be unable to keep up. After a while, your liver may be unable to function normally or at all. The most prevalent causes are:

·      Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

·      Alcohol and substance abuse 

·      Hepatitis B or C infection

·      Autoimmune hepatitis

Other conditions that may develop into cirrhosis include:

·      Cystic Fibrosis

·      Too much iron accumulates in your body.

·      Inherited metabolic disorders like hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

·      Blockage of the bile duct

·      Autoimmune illnesses that lead the body to attack liver cells.

·      Certain hereditary digestive problems.

·      Bad responses to specific drugs

·      Syphilis and brucellosis

·      Chronic cardiac failure and hepatic congestion.

·      Diseases that make it difficult for your body to digest sugar.

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can be asymptomatic in its early stages. However, as the disease worsens, people may experience:

·      Loss of appetite and weight reduction

·      Fatigue and weakness

·      Nausea and vomiting

·      Swelling in the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites).

·      Jaundice (the yellowing of the skin and eyes)

·      Abdominal pain or discomfort

·      Easy bruising and bleeding

·      Confusion or cognitive impairment

Other symptoms include:

·      Blood in the poop

·      Fever

·      Hair loss

·      Trouble sleeping

·      Vomiting of blood

·      Lack of sex drive

·      Brownish color pee

Stages of cirrhosis

Symptoms of Cirrhosis are grouped into two technical stages: compensated and decompensated cirrhosis.

  • Compensated cirrhosis: This is the asymptomatic (no symptoms) stage. There is scarring in the liver but with no symptoms. The liver is still able to function.
  • Decompensated cirrhosis: Symptoms start to appear and liver damage progresses. Thus, leading to liver failure and potential complications. It is possible to reverse the decompensated to the compensated stage if detected and treated early enough.

Cirrhosis Treatment and Prevention

The treatment options vary according to its causes, symptoms, and progression. These include:

·      Medications
Depending on the underlying reason, your doctor may prescribe beta-blockers or nitrates for portal hypertension or antibiotics for hepatitis, respectively.

·      Lifestyle changes
If alcohol consumption causes cirrhosis, your doctor will most likely urge you to stop drinking. Weight loss may be advised if necessary, and a low-salt diet may aid with ascites.

·      Surgery
In severe cases where other treatments fail, a liver transplant may be considered as a last resort.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of cirrhosis include:

  • Vaccination against hepatitis B virus 
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as exercise and a healthy diet
  • Practicing safe sex and avoiding sharing needles to prevent transmission of hepatitis C virus.
  • Managing underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disorders

It is important to note that cirrhosis can progress silently and can go unnoticed for years. This is why it is crucial to adopt healthy habits, get regular check-ups and screenings, and seek medical advice if any symptoms appear.

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