What is it?
Cirrhosis is a serious condition that occurs when spongy healthy liver tissue turns into hard fibrosed scar tissue. Cirrhosis is caused by many years of damage to the liver to result in cirrhosis. Common causes of cirrhosis include excessive alcohol consumption, long term, untreated hepatitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, drug use, and prolonged exposure to chemical toxins.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages of cirrhosis, an individual might have no symptoms at all. In the later stages of cirrhosis, an individual may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal fullness, ascites, edema, spider-like blood vessels noted on the skin, tremors of the hand (asterixis), confusion (hepatic encephalopathy).
How is it diagnosed?
It is typically diagnosed based off of having risk factors including, chronic alcohol use, chronic hepatitis infection, or fatty liver disease. Typically a CT scan, MRI or US is completed to better evaluate the liver. A liver biopsy may be ordered to definitely diagnose and assess the extent of liver damage. A less invasive way of monitoring the progression of cirrhosis is obtaining a fibroscan every 6-12 months to assess worsening fibrosis on the liver. Your healthcare provider will also order bloodwork as well as liver function tests to evaluate for worsening liver disease. An endoscopy is typically done to assess for complications of cirrhosis, specifically enlarged blood vessels in the esophagus (esophageal varices).
How is it treated?
There is no cure for cirrhosis currently, however, the goal of managing cirrhosis is to prevent further liver damage and to reduce complications of cirrhosis. Patient;s are advised to abstain for alcohol and drugs, be vaccinated for Hepatitis A/B and Influenza, and avoid high fat foods. If complications of cirrhosis do occurs, there are medications that can be given to treat the complications. Once cirrhosis is at a point of liver failure, your physician may consider a liver transplant as the next step in management.
Are there any complications?
There are numerous complications of cirrhosis including ascites, edema, esophageal varices, gastropathy (stomach wall blood vessel enlargement), hepatic encephalopathy, jaundice, liver cancer, portal venous hypertension, splenomegaly, and kidney failure.