What is cirrhosis ?
Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions due to chronic injury. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver.
Scarring also impairs the liver's ability to : -
- control infections
- remove bacteria and toxins from the blood
- process nutrients, hormones, and drugs
- make proteins that regulate blood clotting
- produce bile to help absorb fats-including cholesterol-and fat-soluble vitamins
A healthy liver is able to regenerate most of its own cells when they become damaged. With end-stage cirrhosis, the liver can no longer effectively replace damaged cells. A healthy liver is necessary for survival.
Patients with cirrhosis may have few or no symptoms and signs of liver disease. Some of the symptoms may be nonspecific, that is, they don't suggest that the liver is their cause.
Some of the more common symptoms and signs of cirrhosis include : -
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice) due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood
- Loss of appetite
- Easy bruising from decreased production of blood clotting factors by the diseased liver.
Cirrhosis has various causes. In the United States, heavy alcohol consumption and chronic hepatitis C have been the most common causes of cirrhosis. Obesity is becoming a common cause of cirrhosis, either as the sole cause or in combination with alcohol, hepatitis C, or both. Many people with cirrhosis have more than one cause of liver damage.
Treatment for cirrhosis depends on the cause of the disease and whether complications are present. The goals of treatment are to slow the progression of scar tissue in the liver and prevent or treat the complications of the disease. Hospitalization may be necessary for cirrhosis with complications.
Hepatic encephalopathy is treated by cleansing the bowel with lactulose-a laxative given orally or in enemas. Antibiotics are added to the treatment if necessary. Patients may be asked to reduce dietary protein intake. Hepatic encephalopathy may improve as other complications of cirrhosis are controlled.
Some people with cirrhosis who develop hepatorenal failure must undergo regular hemodialysis treatment, which uses a machine to clean wastes from the blood. Medications are also given to improve blood flow through the kidneys.
Eating a nutritious diet. Because malnutrition is common in people with cirrhosis, a healthy diet is important in all stages of the disease. Health care providers recommend a meal plan that is well balanced. If ascites develops, a sodium-restricted diet is recommended.
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