Liver Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a condition that results from permanent damage or scarring of the liver. This leads to a blockage of blood flow through the liver and prevents normal metabolic and regulatory processes.

The major causes of cirrhosis are as follows:

  • chronic alcoholism
  • viral infections caused by chronic viral hepatitis (types B, C and D)
  • metabolic diseases such as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, galactosemia and glycogen storage disorders
  • inherited diseases such as Wilson disease and hemochromatosis
  • biliary cirrhosis resulting from diseases such as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)
  • toxic hepatitis caused by severe reactions to prescribed drugs or prolonged exposure to environmental toxins
  • repeated bouts of heart failure with liver congestion

People in the early stages of cirrhosis have few symptoms. Some symptoms an individual may notice include:

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • exhaustion
Treatments Are Used To Fight Liver Cirrhosis

Treatments of cirrhosis are aimed at stopping or delaying the disease progression, minimizing liver cell damage and reducing complications. When cirrhosis is caused by alcohol, the patient must stop drinking to halt progression of the disease. For most other causes of cirrhosis, cessation of alcohol is also generally recommended.  Cirrhosis caused by viral hepatitis may be treated with antiviral drugs to reduce liver cell injury. Medications can also be given to control the symptoms of cirrhosis.  For example, drugs called “diuretics” are used to remove excess fluid and to prevent edema and ascites from recurring. However, a low salt diet is also essential to treat those with ascites.  Drug therapy can improve altered mental function associated with cirrhosis. Laxatives, such as lactulose, may be given to help absorb toxins and speed their removal from the intestines.  A serious consequence of cirrhosis may be bleeding as a result of portal hypertension.  Medications, such as beta blockers, may be prescribed to reduce portal hypertension.   Even when complications develop, they can usually be treated. If the patient bleeds from the varices of the stomach or esophagus, the doctor can place rubber bands around these veins through a flexible tube (endoscope) that is inserted through the mouth and esophagus. Occasionally these veins are injected with a sclerosing (hardening) agent to stop bleeding.  In critical cases, a portacaval shunt (which relieves the pressure in the portal vein and varices) or a liver transplant may be necessary.