Cirrhosis is a life-threatening condition involving damage to the liver that causes scar tissue to replace normal healthy tissue. Without treatment, cirrhosis can ultimately lead to liver failure.
Causes and Symptoms
Cirrhosis is commonly equated with alcoholism because excessive alcohol consumption over a period of years gradually inflicts damage on the liver. But alcoholism is not the only cause of cirrhosis. It can also be caused by hepatitis B and C, as well as autoimmune diseases like primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. A few genetic diseases such as hemochromatosis, Wilson disease and others exhibit cirrhosis as a symptom.
At first, you might not know that you have cirrhosis of the liver. But over time, you may begin to experience some warning signs that something is wrong with your liver. These can include unexplained fatigue, weight loss, nausea or loss of appetite. Itchiness, abdominal pain and visible, spider-like veins are other common symptoms. Cirrhosis can also contribute to such complications as jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and eyes, as well as easy bruising, gallstones and swelling of the legs and abdomen.
Treatment of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis cannot be reversed once it occurs, but its progression can sometimes be halted through the use of medication and lifestyle changes. The best results are seen if the cirrhosis is detected and treated early.
Some of the basic lifestyle choices that can promote a healthy liver include avoiding alcohol, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, practicing safe sex and seeing a doctor for regular checkups. You should also avoid other unsanitary practices that can lead to hepatitis transmission, such as sharing needles, razors, toothbrushes and other personal items. In the case of severe cirrhosis or liver failure, a liver transplant might be a possibility for some people.
SOURCES: American Liver Foundation; Journal of the American Medical Association
Drug approval expanded to any treatment-naive HCV patients, regardless of cirrhosis status or treatment type