Hepatic Cirrhosis: Definition, Causes, Treatment, Alternative Remedies
We all know the liver is an essential organ. But sometimes we may “subject” it to damage, for example when we drink too much alcohol, when we eat bags of junk food, or take too many over-the-counter pain relievers.
When we expose our liver to these kinds of damage, we may develop scarring, fatty liver disease, or liver cirrhosis.
What is Hepatic Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis, also called liver cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease or hepatic cirrhosis, is a condition that causes scar tissue to gradually replace healthy liver cells. In other words, cirrhosis is scarring or fibrosis of the liver due to long-term damage to this organ.
This disease occurs when the liver becomes overtaxed by excessive consumption of carbohydrates or alcohol. It also develops due to certain diseases like Hepatitis B and C.
What Are the Symptoms of Cirrhosis?
In the first stages, cirrhosis has no symptoms. When the liver damage becomes extensive, some signs may appear:
- Itchy skin,
- Loss of appetite,
- Easily bleeding or bruising,
- Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen),
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration in skin and eyes),
- Redness in the palms of the hands,
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin,
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech.
- Men may emperience loss of sex drive, gynecomastia (breast enlargement) or testicular atrophy,
- Women may experience absence or loss of periods, unrelated to menopause.
What are the Causes of Cirrhosis?
There may exist many causes to this disease, such as:
- Chronic alcohol abuse (drinking for many years everyday),
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (fat accumulating in the liver),
- Wilson’s disease (copper accumulated in the body),
- Chronic viral hepatitis (B, C, and D),
- Hemochromatosis (iron buildup in the body),
- Biliary atresia (poorly formed bile ducts),
- Cystic fibrosis,
- Galactosemia or glycogen storage disease (inherited disorders of sugar metabolism),
- Autoimmune hepatitis (liver disease caused by the body’s immune system),
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency,
- Taking medications like methotrexate or isoniazid,
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis (hardening and scarring of bile ducts).
The 3 main risk factors include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption,
- Being overweight, obesity increases the risk,
- Having viral hepatitis.
Cirrhosis treatment will depend on the cause. Unfortunately, cirrhosis cannot usually be cured. However, the symptoms can be managed to stop the condition from getting worse.
The first step is changing our lifestyle. The following tips are recommended by doctors:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid alcohol
- Exercise regularly
- If you are obese or everweight, lose weight
- Reduce the chance of infections with good hygiene habits
As cirrhosis progresses the liver becomes unable to function which lead to complications:
Ascites: this is build-up of fluid in the tummy area, legs, or ankles. Usually cutting down on salt will resolve this complication but you may need to be prescribed a diuretic. If the fluid becomes infected you may need antibiotics.
Encephalopathy: cirrhosis may cause problems with brain function since the liver is no longer able to clear toxins adequately. Symptoms include confusion, problems concentrating, and feeling sleepy. Lactulose syrup or antibiotic called rifaximin may help treat encephalopathy.
Swollen veins: also called bleeding veins, they occur in the food pipe or oesophagus, stomach. Veins become swollen and may cause you to vomit blood or have blood in your stools. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms. Generally this complication is treated with a beta blocker.
Liver cancer: cirrhosis may lead to liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The symptoms of this type of cancer may coincide with cirrhosis. An ultrasound scan and blood tests are essential, as well as regular check-ups.
Liver transplant: this operation involves removing the severely damaged liver and replacing it with a healthy one from a donor. This may take a lot of time until a suitable donor is found. A liver transplant will not be possible if cirrhosis was caused by alcohol-related liver disease or if you continue to drink alcohol.
Diabetes: cirrhosis may develop as a complication of type 2 diabetes. This increases resistance to insulin (a hormone produced by the body to control your blood sugar levels).
Cirrhosis: Diet Tips
As regards dietary changes that should be implemented, you should consult your doctor and nutrition expert to receive advice on the best options for you.
An important aspect to consider is malnutrition, cirrhosis patients a damaged liver is unable to store glycogen, a type of energy fuel for the body. For this reason muscle loss and weakness is very common in patients with cirrhosis. To prevent this, extra protein and calories are required in your diet.
Doctors also recommend drinking coffee. Studies show that drinking coffee is beneficial for the liver. Drinking a moderate amount of coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer and other liver conditions, like fibrosis. It also slows the progression of liver disease.
- Cut down on salt to reduce swelling in feet, legs and tummy.
- Eat healthy snacks in-between meals.
- Foods to avoid: fast food, fried food, hot dogs, pickles, tomato sauce, potato chips, red meat, raw fish, canned food, full-fat dairy products, bread, biscuits, pancakes, doughnuts, salt.
- Recommended foods: fruits and vegetables, eggs, cooked fish, lean chicken, low-fat Greek yogurt, unsalted nuts and seeds, dried beans and legumes, oats, tofu, olive oil, fresh herbs, low-fat dairy products, ginger, quinoa, couscous, garlic.
Cirrhosis and Alcohol
Alcohol-related disease is a serious condition. If you have been diagnosed with this disease it is essential that you stop drinking and remain abstinent life-long. Drinking alcohol also accelerates liver damage if you have hepatitis C and it limits the effectiveness of viral treatment.
Cutting down on your alcohol consumption not only helps you lose weight (alcoholic drinks are high in calories) but it prevents many diseases.
We hope these tips were helpful. Start implementing them to have a healthy liver and visit your doctor who will provide the best assistance.