What is Cirrhosis?
When scar tissue forms in the liver it is known as Cirrhosis. The scar tissue replaces normal tissue and blocks blood flow to the liver. The scarring takes place due to injury caused to the liver by causes such as alcohol abuse, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, primary biliary cirrhosis, Autoimmune chronic active hepatitis, drugs and chemicals, blocked bile ducts, genetic disorders such as haemochromatosis, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, Wilson disease, galactosemia, and glycogen storage diseases.
Symptoms of liver cirrhosis
In the early stages of cirrhosis of the liver there may be no symptoms at all. In many cases, the cirrhosis gets discovered while investigating another illness.
With disease progression, a person may experience exhaustion, fatigue, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain and spider angiomas on the skin. In later stages, complications caused by cirrhosis include:
- Jaundice: Skin and eyes take on a yellow hue when the diseased liver does not absorb enough bilirubin.
- Edema and ascites: Fluid retention in the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites).
- Easy Bruising and bleeding: A person will bruise or bleed easily since the liver no longer produces proteins needed for blood clotting. Nosebleeds and palmar erythema (reddish blotchy palms)
- Abnormal blood vessels: Formation of a spider naevus, which is a spot surrounded by fine blood vessels. A red face is also common.
- Itching: Intense skin itching due to accumulation of bile products
- Gallstones: gallstones may develop.
- Toxins in the blood or brain: Toxins accumulating in the blood and brain can can dull mental functioning, cause personality changes, coma, and even death. Signs of the buildup of toxins in the brain include neglect of personal appearance, unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, or changes in sleep habits.
- Sensitivity to medication: Medications build up in the body and act longer than expected causing a person to be more sensitive to medications and their side effects.
- Portal hypertension: cirrhosis slows the normal flow of blood through the portal vein, which increases the pressure inside it causing portal hypertension.
- Varices: When blood flow through the portal vein slows, blood from the intestines and spleen backs up into blood vessels in the stomach and esophagus causing them to be enlarged. The bursting of these blood vessels can cause an emergency bleeding problem in the upper stomach or esophagus.
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes: Cirrhosis causes resistance to insulin which is a hormone enabling blood glucose to be used as energy by the cells of the body. With insulin resistance, insulin is not used properly by the body and the pancreas cannot keep up with the body's need for insulin. As excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, type 2 diabetes develops.
- Liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer commonly caused by cirrhosis, starts in the liver tissue itself.
- Problems in other organs. Cirrhosis can cause immune system dysfunction, leading to infection. Fluid in the abdomen (ascites) may become infected with bacteria normally present in the intestines. Cirrhosis can also lead to impotence, kidney dysfunction and failure, and osteoporosis.