Liver cirrhosis is a chronic, progressive, irreversible liver damage/disease, which compromises the normal liver function and results in myriad of health problems.
Generally, a healthy liver has a capacity to regenerate itself, but in end stage cirrhosis, liver loses its capacity to regenerate damaged cells leading to compromised function and liver failure.
Causes of Liver Cirrhosis
The most common causes of liver cirrhosis include chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C, alcohol abuse and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Other causes include autoimmune hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, glycogen storage disease, galactosemia, parasitic infections, chronic exposure to toxins and severe drug reactions.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
In the early stages of liver cirrhosis, the body tries to compensate for liver malfunction, thus it is known as compensated stage. However, with progression of cirrhosis, the body is unable to compensate for liver malfunction and presents with symptoms of fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, pruritus, spider like blood vessels on the skin, abdominal pain and bloating.
What Is The Prognosis For Someone With Cirrhosis Of Liver?
Liver is a vital organ in human body and its malfunction gives rise to several complications. Since, liver cirrhosis is asymptomatic in its early stages and becomes symptomatic only when it has progressed to advanced stages with severe complications, the prognosis is usually unfavorable. However, if liver cirrhosis symptoms are detected early, then the prognosis becomes favorable.
Generally, liver cirrhosis prognosis varies from person to person depending upon factors such as cause of liver disease, individual’s overall health, stage at which the liver disease was diagnosed, possibility of liver transplant, etc.
The different health complications noticed in patients with liver cirrhosis are gallstones, easy bruising and bleeding, jaundice, edema of feet (fluid accumulation in the feet) and ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen), portal hypertension, splenomegaly, sensitivity to medications, esophageal varices, gastropathy (varices in the abdomen), type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, hepatic encephalopathy causing mental confusion, drowsiness and coma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and if left untreated then liver failure eventually causing death. All the complications of liver cirrhosis are due to compromised liver function and irreversible liver damage, since liver is unable to perform its normal function.
Liver cirrhosis diagnosis includes patient’s medical history, evaluation of signs and symptoms along with clinical examination, blood tests, imaging and biopsy. Once the diagnosis of liver cirrhosis is confirmed, the treatment is designed to cure complications and to prevent further damage to liver cells and slow down the progression of cirrhosis. There is no specific treatment to reverse cirrhosis of liver, but liver cirrhosis management only aims at treating and preventing the cause of liver cirrhosis to prevent further complications. For e.g., alcoholic liver cirrhosis can be prevented from worsening by abstaining from alcohol, cirrhosis related to hepatitis can be treated by interferon if caused by viral hepatitis and corticosteroids if caused by autoimmune diseases, copper stores in Wilson’s disease is treated with penicillamine, which is a chelating agent. It can be further prevented from progression by eating a healthy and well balanced diet and avoiding foods and drinks causing liver damage.
What Is The Survival Rate Of Patients With Liver Cirrhosis?
As we all know that there is no treatment to reverse the damage done to liver once the damage has progressed to liver cirrhosis, it can only be prevented from further progression to liver failure. If the liver cirrhosis has worsened and the complications are not managed with conservative treatment, then the only option is liver transplant. The patients with liver transplant have good prognosis with higher survival rate and improved quality of life. If liver cirrhosis is detected at an early stage, then the life expectancy is about 15 to 20 years, if it is detected at second stage then the life expectance is decreased to 6 to 10 years and if it is detected during the last stage then the life expectancy is only remains 1 to 3 years.