Cirrhosis of the Liver – What you should know?
1. Cirrhosis of the liver is the end stage of ARLD (Alcohol Related Liver Disease) and NARFLD (Non-Alcohol Related Fatty Liver Disease)
2. Alcoholic Cirrhosis develops in 10-20% of chronic drinkers
3. A Standard unit of Alcohol consumption i.e. 12 grams of absolute alcohol = 360 ml of Beer (5% Alcohol) or 120 ml of Wine (12% Alcohol) or 30 ml of Hard Liquor (40% Alcohol in Brandy, Whisky or Rum)
4. Time taken for developing Alcoholic Liver Disease = Men 60-80 gm/day alcohol for approx. 10 years whereas in Women 20-40 gm/day
5. In addition to the above – genetic factors, female sex, obesity, chronic viral hepatitis, nutritional deficiency and medications are other risk factors
6. As per WHO, 6% of global deaths are due to harmful use of alcohol (3.3 million) – majority due to Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis (and 200 other diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, TB, HIV/AIDS, road-traffic accidents and related injuries)
Liver cirrhosis is a disease which results in the death of healthy liver tissue where living cells degenerate and are replaced with scar tissue. Due to severe scarring, blood flow through the liver is blocked, compromising its ability to perform essential functions. Cirrhosis causes the liver to shrink and harden, making it difficult for blood rich nutrients to flow throughout the organ and decreases its efficiency. Treatment of cirrhosis is directed towards reducing the complications of cirrhosis and preventing further damage to the liver.
What causes liver cirrhosis?
Chronic viral infections of the liver like Hepatitis C, prolonged excessive consumption of alcohol and fatty liver disease are some conditions that lead to Liver Cirrhosis.
Other causes of Liver Cirrhosis include:
● Chronic alcoholism
● Hepatitis B and D
● Autoimmune diseases
● Bile Duct Issues
● Improper Metabolism of Iron and Copper contained in Food
● Overuse of certain antibiotics/antidepressants
What are the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver?
Signs and Symptoms of cirrhosis occur due to the liver’s inability to purify blood, breakdown food and absorb nutrients. The symptoms include:
● Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) due to bilirubin accumulation in the blood
● Loss of appetite
● Getting bruised easily due to reduced blood clotting protein
● Nose bleeds
● Sudden and Rapid weight loss
● Fluid retention
● Swelling in the abdomen(Ascites), legs and ankles (Edema)
● Brownish or orange colored urine
● Light colored stools with traces of blood
Treatment for liver cirrhosis varies based on the cause and how far the disease has progressed.
The following treatment approaches may be followed:
● Preventing further damage to the liver by:
○ Consuming a balanced diet with additional vitamins D and K
○ Alcohol Cessation
○ Avoiding anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen as it can worsen the functions of liver and kidney
○ Immunizing the person with cirrhosis against hepatitis A and B as it can cause serious damage in the liver function
● Treating the complications of Cirrhosis:
○ Edema and ascites – Retention of salt and water in the body of the patients with cirrhosis, leads to swelling of the ankle and legs (edema) or abdomen (ascites). Patients with liver cirrhosis are therefore advised to restrict dietary sodium to as low as 2 grams and fluid to 1.2 l per day
○ Bleeding from varices – There is a risk of serious bleeding due to rupture of the varices in the patients. Therefore, medications and treatment is necessary to prevent the bleeding
○ Reducing alcohol consumption resolves or greatly improves disease progression following 6-12 months of abstinence
● Liver Transplantation – Liver transplant is often seen as the last resort for patients with Liver Cirrhosis
Weight Management and Regular Exercise is advised to manage cirrhosis of the liver and a general healthy lifestyle goes a long way in prevention and treatment.