CIRRHOSIS (LIVER DISEASE)

CIRRHOSIS (LIVER DISEASE)

What is liver cirrhosis?

  • Liver cirrhosis is a condition where the liver is unable to function properly due to the presence of many scarred tissues on the surface of the liver.

  • The scarring tissue is formed when damaged spot on the liver is naturally cured by the human body. Liver damage is often caused by excessive drinking of alcohol and the hepatitis virus.

  • If liver damage occurs frequently, scarring in the liver will accumulate and in the long run will cause liver cirrhosis.

  • Liver cirrhosis cannot be cured but the damage that it does to the liver can be controlled if treated early.

What are the indications?

Among the signs that you may have liver cirrhosis are:

  • The accumulation of fluid in your abdomen (ascites)

  • Blood vessels are clearly visible on your skin

  • Redness in the palm of your hand

  • Nausea

  • Disorientation

  • Stuttering when speaking out of a sudden

  • Swelling on any part of the leg (edema)

  • Fatigue

  • Easily bled or bruised

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Itchy skin

  • Yellow on skin and eyes (jaundice)

  • Fail to menstruate for women (not menopausal)

  • Loss of libido and breast increased in size for men (gynecomastia)

Position of the human liver

Normal liver vs cirrhotic liver 

Overconsumption of alcohol increases risk of having liver cirrhosis

What are the causes?

Among the causes of liver cirrhosis are:

  • Alcohol: Excessive drinking alcohol increases the risk of liver cirrhosis.

  • Infected with hepatitis virus: High probability you will have liver cirrhosis if you are infected with hepatitis.

  • Obesity: Excessive body fat increases the risk of developing liver cirrhosis.

How to avoid & control it?

The steps that can be taken to prevent cirrhosis (liver disease) are:

  • Exercise regularly to lose weight and maintain body health.

  • Eat food that guarantees body health such as:

    • Meat and lean chicken

    • Vegetables

    • Fruits

    • Low-fat dairy products

    • Cereals (mainly oats)

  • Reduce alcohol comsumption. Stop drinking alcohol completely if you have signs of liver cirrhosis.

  • Do not share needles and avoid having unprotected sex to prevent from being infected with hepatitis virus.

Coronary artery bypass surgery uses blood vessel taken from the leg

How it is detected?

If you have any signs of cirrhosis (liver disease) that have been mentioned, discuss with the doctor about your specific situation. With the advice of a doctor, you can decide whether the screening method is right for you.

Among the most commonly used liver cyrrhosis detection methods are:

  • Blood tests: Your blood sample will be taken and analyzed to examine your liver condition.

  • Imaging tests aim to produce images of your liver to detect any abnormal situations using: -

    • CT scan

    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

    • Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE)

    • Ultrasound

How it is treated?

Discuss with your doctor what type of treatment is best for your specific situation.

Among the methods to treat cirrhosis (liver disease) are:

  • Take special medicines to treat signs of liver cirrhosis such as:

    • Drugs to suppress the accumulation of fluid in the body

    • Drugs to counteract with high blood pressure

    • Drugs to prevent any viral infections

    • Drug to control the body's toxin content

  • Procedure to replace your unhealthy liver with a healthy one from:

    • A deceased donor

    • A living donor (part of his/her liver)

When do you need to see a doctor?

  • Make an appointment with your doctor if you recognize signs of liver cirrhosis.

  • Each hospital has different methods for screening liver cirrhosis.

  • Discuss the liver cirrhosis screening with your doctor. Together with a physician, you can decide what is best for you.

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How to get ready with your appointments?

For your preparation, a medical specialist may ask you some questions as follows:

  • Are the signs of your illness occurring continuously or occasionally?

  • How severe are the illness signs on your body?

  • Since when did you begin to experience the signs of the illness?

  • ​How often do you drink alcohol?

  • Have you ever had hepatitis / jaundice disease?

  • What triggers the signs of your illness to be more severe? (if any)

  • What do you usually do to relieve any signs of your illness?

 

 

What you can do to prepare before the appointment is:

  • List the signs of your illness.

  • Know any restriction that needs to be done before the appointment. Make sure to ask first what to do before appointment (such as limiting your diet, etc.).

  • List all the medicines, vitamins or supplements you consume.

  • If possible, invite family members or friends to be with you. Sometimes we find it difficult to remember all the information during the appointment. Your companion might just help you with this.

  • List your personal information that can help your doctor in investigating your illness (such as major stresses in your life or any changes in your life recently).

  • List all the questions you would like to ask your doctor.

Here are some general questions that you can ask your doctor:

  • What are the possible causes for signs of illness that appear on me?

  • What method of screening should I take? Do I need to make any necessary arrangements before doing the screening?

  • What is the severity of my illness?

  • Should I get a second doctor's opinion of my condition?

  • What are the treatment options that are suitable for my condition?

  • Are there any side effects for each treatment?

  • How does each treatment option affect my daily life?

  • How big is my possibility of getting completely healed from the disease if I undergo the treatment?

  • Do I need to undergo the treatment immediately without delay?

  • How long will the treatment last?

  • How often should I get examined after treatment?

  • What are the complications that I need to face in the future?

  • What other alternatives are available apart from the medicines you prescribed? (if any)

  • Do I need to make any changes to my lifestyle? What nutrition and level of activity are appropriate for my condition?

  • What else can I do to protect my health?

  • I have other health problems. How can I best manage this situation?

If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask the doctor during your appointment.

Updated: February 13, 2019

References:

  1. Papadakis, Maxine A., McPhee, Stephen J., Rabow, Michael W. CURRENT Medical Diagnosis and Treatment. 58th ed. McGraw Hill Professional, 2018.

  2. Porter, Robert S. The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms: A Concise, Practical Guide to Etiology, Evaluation and Treatment. Wiley, 2008.

  3. Beirman, Robin., Engel, Roger. An A-Z of Symptoms and Signs. Palgrave Macmillan Australia, 2009.

  4. Griffith, Henry W. Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery. 3rd ed. Body Press/Perigree Books, 1995.

  5. National Health Service Inform. 2019. Cirrhosis. [https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/cirrhosis]. Accessed 11 February 2019.

  6. American Liver Foundation. 2019. Liver Disease. [https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/the-progression-of-liver-disease/#1503432933768-040e8645-d918]. Accessed 09 February 2019.

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