What is Cirrhosis of the Liver?
Several forms of cirrhosis of the liver exist, but the most common is due to excessive alcoholic intake over a period of years. Alcohol is taken to the liver where it is broken down. But the continual effect of this is that the liver cells become permanently damaged. Scar tissue forms in an effort to heal the damage (fibrosis), and in due course this appears as hard nodules throughout and on the surface of the organ. The liver enlarges and becomes firm, hard and covered with nodules. Many variations of the picture occur, and often these depend on the personal habits of the patient.
Apart from the gradual destruction of the liver itself, several important complications arc fairly common and may aggravate the underlying condition.
Portal hypertension may take place. Blood flow through the damaged liver cells becomes increasingly impeded, so there is an increase in pressure in the portal vein (the vessel that conveys the blood from the bowel walls to the liver). Large dilated knots called varices may develop in the walls, and these are more common and most pronounced in the oesophageal and stomach area. The serious danger is that these may rupture into the oesophagus and stomach, and enormous amounts of blood may be lost through haemorrhage, possibly even life-endangering. Also, due to this cause, fluid called ascites tends to accumulate in the abdominal cavity.
Porto-systemic encephalopathy may also occur. In simple words, the chronic intoxication may adversely affect brain function. Confusion, drowsiness and coma may all occur.
As the enzymes of the liver are interfered with, there is also interference with the rate at which these are metabolized, so their level in the bloodstream may rise. This may produce skin abnormalities, such as spider naevi – a central red spot on the skin with radiating small vessels, commonly on the limbs, face or neck, and also the trunk. “White” fingernails and clubbing may also occur.
It seems that about one person in five with liver cirrhosis runs a risk of developing liver cancer. For anyone indulging in alcohol, particularly those drinking heavily or the cupboard drinkers, the message is there, loud and clear. Change your drinking habits. Ideally, stop altogether. Alternatively, reduce it considerably, for these complications are serious, severe and definitely life-endangering.
Cirrhosis of the Liver Symptoms
Usually there is a history of alcohol indulgence over some years. Often symptoms are not clear-cut, but morning nausea, indigestion, dyspepsia and flatulence due to gastritis are common. Jaundice may follow heavy drinking bouts. Spider naevi or oesophageal varices may occur, and upper gastrointestinal hemorrhaging may be recorded. Mental debility, possible paralysis (partial) and altered sensations in the fingers and limbs and elsewhere are common features. Coma following acute alcoholism may take place.
Cirrhosis of the Liver Treatment
In the initial stages, hospital treatment is usually the most satisfactory avenue, although the final outcome is often not very successful. A change in the person’s alcoholic habits is mandatory to success, but majority are unwilling to alter their ways. Some hospitals specialize in caring for patients on withdrawal, and have successful records. A high vitamin B complex, high protein intake is essential. Mending one’s ways, and getting attached to Alcoholics Anonymous is the most successful possibility The latter has a remarkable record of outstanding achievement, and worldwide offices are readily available to anyone in need.