Liver cirrhosis, or liver shrinkage, is a chronic, progressive disease of the liver. One also speaks of a destruction of the liver, which is mostly holistically affected. In particular, the liver lobules are destroyed and converted into connective tissue. Liver cirrhosis can also be an end stage of other liver diseases. Men between the ages of 50 and 60 are mostly affected. This disease is less common in women because statistically they are less likely to abuse alcohol.
What is liver cirrhosis?
Symptoms of liver cirrhosis can also indicate gallbladder infection or gallstones. Furthermore, gastritis diseases must also be ruled out. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Liver Cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis of the liver is a disease of the liver. The vessels and tissue of the liver in particular are permanently destroyed. The main cause of cirrhosis of the liver is a shrinkage of the liver. In addition, the organ behaves visibly. In the course of liver cirrhosis, the connective tissue of the liver changes into a scarred structure.
This destruction of the liver, also known as liver shrinkage, can lead to life-threatening complications. Medically, the liver in cirrhosis can be divided into three forms. There is a large-nodular liver, a small-nodular liver, and a hybrid of the first two. Excessive alcohol consumption often results in a small nodular liver, whereas a large nodular liver is more likely to appear in hepatitis.
In cirrhosis of the liver, the lobules of the liver become scarred and become connective tissue. This process is called fibrosis. As a result, the function of the liver is extremely disturbed. The liver now becomes hard and nodular. Eventually she finally shrinks. This then results in poor blood flow to the liver, which can lead to portal hypertension. Commonly known causes of cirrhosis of the liver are:
- Alcohol abuse, 1/2 of all cases
- Hepatitis, B, C, D, 1/4 of all cases
- Disease of the iron, copper or fat metabolism
- Biliary tract diseases with bile stasis
- cardiovascular diseases, eg congested liver in chronic right heart failure
- poisons or medicines
Liver cirrhosis is the result of various liver diseases, which have a wide variety of underlying causes. With more than 60 percent, most of all cases of liver cirrhosis in Germany can be traced back to alcohol abuse. In 20-30 percent of all those affected, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or hepatitis D causes cirrhosis of the liver.
The rarer causes of cirrhosis of the liver include various hereditary metabolic diseases. Tropical diseases, cholera, medicines and chemicals can also be considered as causes.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Cirrhosis of the liver can last for years without noticeable symptoms. With the atrophy of the liver tissue, the performance of the organ decreases, which results in various complaints. First of all, metabolic disorders usually appear. Those affected then regularly experience gastrointestinal complaints or develop jaundice.
Blood clotting then deteriorates, which can result in circulatory disorders, pain and cardiovascular problems. The diseased liver also has negative effects on the hormonal balance. This can lead to hormonal problems, which manifest themselves in the form of mood swings and irritability, but also through physical changes (e.g. the development of male breasts in women).
In the advanced stage of the disease, symptoms such as fatigue and weight loss also occur. In addition, the sufferers sweat excessively and suffer from pain in the upper abdomen. The skin is usually gray to yellowish and has visible vascular spiders running through it.
Accompanying this, itching and redness, especially in the area of the ball of the hand, can be noticed. Also characteristic are the lacquer lips, i.e. red, smooth and excessively dry lips. The symptoms take a gradual course and are only reversible with early treatment. However, any organ damage can have long-term consequences and greatly impair the patient’s quality of life.
course of the disease
Symptoms of liver cirrhosis can also indicate gallbladder infection or gallstones. Furthermore, gastritis diseases must also be ruled out. In the further course of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer can also develop, so that this disease must also be addressed.
Overall, however, liver cirrhosis depends on the cause of the disease. In any case, liver cirrhosis should not be treated by yourself, but by a trained doctor. Serious complications can be avoided, especially if cirrhosis of the liver is recognized in good time. However, once the damage is irreversible, full recovery is no longer possible.
If cirrhosis of the liver is left untreated, its function is likely to become progressively reduced, which can lead to a loss of quality of life or even death. The following complications and damage can then occur: accumulation of water in the abdomen, metabolic disorders, internal bleeding in the stomach, esophagus or intestines, as well as brain diseases due to insufficient detoxification of the body by the liver.
Cirrhosis of the liver can cause various complications. Only parts of the liver are detoxified, which in turn has serious effects on the state of health. One of the most common sequelae of liver cirrhosis is hepatic encephalopathy.
Because toxic breakdown products from protein metabolism remain in the blood, the brain is damaged. Initially, the encephalopathy usually remains without symptoms. In the further course, mood swings, concentration problems, prolonged reaction times, sleep-wake cycle disorders, pathological fatigue and loss of consciousness usually occur. Eventually, a liver failure coma threatens.
Other complications include abdominal dropsy (ascites). Fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity and the patient suffers from symptoms such as breathing problems and abdominal pain. If kidney failure or an infection of the peritoneum (peritonitis) occurs, the complications can have life-threatening consequences.
Portal hypertension (high pressure in the portal vein) is also of concern. In this sequela of liver cirrhosis, blood pools in front of the scarred area of the liver, which in turn leads to an increase in portal vein pressure. As a result, new blood vessels form, such as varicose veins, which cause bleeding from hemorrhoids or from esophageal varices in the esophagus. The latter are considered life-threatening.
Liver cirrhosis also increases the risk of liver cancer. People with liver disease from haemochromatosis or chronic hepatitis B are particularly affected.
When should you go to the doctor?
People who consume alcohol regularly over a long period of time are advised to undergo a medical examination. If the person affected suffers from withdrawal symptoms, inner restlessness or physical pain without drinking alcohol, a doctor’s visit is necessary. If there is pressure pain in the upper abdomen or below the ribs, a doctor should be consulted. Digestive problems, weight loss or loss of appetite are signs of an irregularity. A doctor’s visit is necessary so that the cause of the symptoms can be determined. Medical attention is needed for increased irritability, mood swings, or personality changes.
Irregular heart rhythms, changes in the appearance of the skin, poor personal hygiene and itching on the skin are all signs of an existing disease. Yellowing of the eyes or skin are indications of liver disorders. A doctor’s visit is necessary for medical care to take place. Since liver cirrhosis can lead to organ failure and thus to the premature death of those affected, a doctor should be consulted as soon as the first symptoms appear. A drop in the usual performance, a feeling of illness or a general feeling of being unwell should be presented to a doctor. A doctor is also required if increased tiredness or sleep disorders occur over several weeks or months.
Treatment & Therapy
First, the cause of liver cirrhosis is examined by the doctor. These are usually increased alcohol consumption or a hepatitis infection. Therefore, these causes must be combated here first. Alcohol or other toxic substances should be avoided immediately. If you have hepatitis, treat it first. The damage caused by liver cirrhosis can no longer be healed.
Nevertheless, timely treatment can alleviate further complications and discomfort. Depending on the cause, drug therapy, such as diuretics or liver transplantation in alcoholic patients, can be successful.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of a diagnosed liver cirrhosis is unfavorable. It is a disease that causes irreparable damage to the organ. Physicians focus their treatment on curbing the progression of the disease. In many cases, however, the cooperation of the patient is absolutely necessary. If you are suffering from alcoholism, only completely abstaining from alcohol consumption can alleviate the symptoms.
Without medical care, the disorder usually spreads and the liver gradually deteriorates. Spontaneous healing is not to be expected. Likewise, no alternative healing methods are effective. The functional activity of the liver is significantly disturbed, which ultimately leads to organ failure and thus to a life-threatening condition. In many patients, a transplant from a donor organ alone can improve or alleviate cirrhosis of the liver.
Organ transplantation is associated with numerous risks, side effects and complications. If the surgical procedure proceeds without any further abnormalities and if the new organ is well accepted by the organism, recovery can take place. The affected person is nevertheless dependent on drug treatment for the rest of his or her life and experiences impairments in coping with everyday life. Nevertheless, with a donor organ, he has the prospect of extending his average expected lifespan.
So far, abstaining from alcohol is the best way to prevent cirrhosis of the liver. Vaccination against hepatitis can also have a preventive effect. Protection from various toxins, such as solvents, should also be the primary focus of every preventive measure. General hygiene rules can also protect against causes of liver cirrhosis.
The form in which follow-up treatments are possible for cirrhosis of the liver depends on the cause that led to the cirrhosis. The damaging influences must be treated and avoided in any case. The severity of the disease is assigned to a specific stage through follow-up examinations. Accordingly, secondary diseases can be read.
If the cirrhosis of the liver is due to long-term alcohol abuse, the first most important starting point is lifelong, absolute abstinence from alcohol. In addition to chronic hepatitis diseases, taking medication is a sensible, further treatment for autoimmune diseases. However, these drugs cannot reverse cirrhosis of the liver, they can only contain it and largely stop its progression.
Thus, the disease always leads to irreversible damage to the liver. In general, all patients with cirrhosis of the liver should abstain from alcohol, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly for life. Switching to a healthy diet can only be successful if it is planned for the long term. Strengthening the immune system plays a key role here in limiting and suppressing secondary diseases.
If functions of the brain are already impaired by the disease, this is due to the proportion of toxins in the blood that the liver can no longer filter due to the damage. Here, the toxins must be reduced by drug treatment. If secondary diseases such as abdominal dropsy occur over time, they must be treated promptly in order to rule out complications as far as possible.
You can do that yourself
Cirrhosis of the liver is a very serious condition that you should never treat yourself. Since the damage to the liver caused by cirrhosis is usually irreversible, a doctor should be consulted promptly if certain symptoms occur. The onset of liver cirrhosis can be announced by a number of different symptoms, although the organ itself does not hurt. Signs can be, for example, loss of appetite, nausea, erectile dysfunction and jaundice.
Since cirrhosis of the liver is due to excessive alcohol consumption in about half of the cases and to hepatitis that is usually not treated properly or is delayed in about 20 percent of the cases, the patient can also help to improve his or her state of health. As soon as alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver is diagnosed, the affected person must immediately stop or at least drastically reduce their alcohol consumption. Since the majority of patients are addicted to alcohol, the support of a doctor is usually not enough. It is best for those affected to go into rehab and then start psychotherapy to avoid a relapse. Membership in a self-help group also helps many of those affected. For alcoholics there is free help available in almost every major city and on the internet.
If the cirrhosis of the liver is due to hepatitis, this underlying disease must be completely treated. It is best for the affected person to follow all of the doctor’s orders. In addition, he can support the therapy by adopting a healthy lifestyle, especially by avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and fatty foods.