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Gastro Science | Posted on 05/12/2020 by RBH
Cirrhosis is a medical condition of the liver in which the healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue due to severe health conditions and diseases such as infection, Hepatitis, alcohol addiction, etc. Cirrhosis is a progressive disease, which intensifies with time and can be fatal.
The liver of the human body is a very essential organ about the size of a football. It is the primary organ responsible for removing toxins from the blood and producing enzymes, which help digest food, and store, sugar, and nutrients. The liver also functions effectively to avoid any infections. Every time the liver is hurt, injured, or damaged due to a health condition, or lifestyle habit such as excessive alcohol – it produces scar tissue to repair itself. But when the liver is repeatedly injured or hurt, the production of scar tissue increases leading to critical problems in the proper functioning of the liver. Serious and long-term damage to the liver is the primary cause of cirrhosis, in which the liver cells are replaced with scar tissue. Too much production of scar tissue in the liver tends to impact the other healthy cells, thereby blocking the blood flow through the liver. This condition can be very severe and can prove fatal for the patient.
The damage caused to the liver due to the process of cirrhosis, cannot be undone; though the symptoms can be managed and the overall impact can be reduced, provided the problem is diagnosed early on the stages. For cases, where cirrhosis is not timely diagnosed or does not receive adequate medical treatment, the condition can be life-threatening.
A person might not experience any significant symptoms until the damage reaches an advanced stage. That said, in most of the cases, cirrhosis does not produce any symptoms until the final stage, which makes it difficult to control and treat. Yet, some symptoms that can help with early diagnosis of cirrhosis include:
Some other symptoms that can be witnessed which indicate a higher stage of cirrhosis include:
A person suffering from cirrhosis may or may not experience all of these symptoms since the condition impacts every patient differently. Also, the mere presence of symptoms does not confirm the conditions, unless it is diagnostically confirmed through a medical examination. In some cases, these symptoms can also indicate another health condition.
As mentioned, patients with early-stage of cirrhosis might show any prominent symptoms, but the condition can be diagnosed with the help of routine blood tests or check-ups. To confirm cirrhosis, the following tests might be performed by the doctor:
Lab Tests: A blood test may be conducted to check for liver malfunction signs such as excessive bilirubin, certain enzymes, etc. Moreover, creatinine levels may be determined to assess kidney function and to check for any hepatitis virus. Several other indicators will be examined from the blood test. This is also used to know the underlying cause of cirrhosis.
Imaging Tests: The doctor might advise for an MRE to detect any hardening or stiffening of the liver; this test is non-invasive and provides an in-depth analysis of conditions. A few other imaging tests such as an MRI, CT, ultrasound, etc. can also be done.
Biopsy: In a biopsy, the doctor collects a sample of tissue from the liver to study the extent and cause of liver damage.
For a person, confirmed with cirrhosis, the doctor will advise regular medical screenings to check for progression and other related complications such as liver cancer or esophageal varices.
Cirrhosis has no definitive treatment, but the underlying cause can be cured to prevent any further damage to the liver. The treatment options include:
For any complications that arise out of cirrhosis, the following treatment options can be used:
For cases, which reach a severely advanced stage of cirrhosis, liver transplant surgery might be the only option left. In this stage, the liver fails and stops functioning, making the body extremely vulnerable and nearly fatal. In a liver transplant, the surgeon will replace the damaged liver with a matching donor, healthy liver. The donor could be a deceased person or a living person who agrees to donate a part of the healthy, living donor. Cirrhosis is one of the primary causes of liver transplant surgery.