Your liver is a very important part of your body; it filters harmful chemicals out of your blood, metabolizes drugs, and produces proteins that help your body perform important functions. However, like any organ in your body, the liver can be damaged by chronic misuse or by certain diseases.
What is Cirrhosis?
Damage to the liver can take the form of scarring. When the liver is severely scarred, it is called cirrhosis. As cirrhosis becomes worse, it makes it more and more difficult for the liver to perform its very important functions to protect the body. If allowed to progress, cirrhosis can be life-threatening; 31,000 Americans die each year to the condition.
What Causes Cirrhosis?
A number of factors can cause cirrhosis, including:
- Alcohol Abuse
- Hepatitis B and C
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Blockages in the Bile Duct
- Reactions to Certain Prescription Medications
- Exposure to Certain Chemicals
What Are the Symptoms of Cirrhosis?
Early-stage cirrhosis is often silent. However, you are more likely to see symptoms as the disease progresses. Here are some of the common symptoms:
- Extreme Fatigue
- Loss of Appetite
- Unusual Weight Loss or Weight Gain
- Light Colored or Bloody Stool
- Swelling in the Legs or Abdomen
- Jaundice (Yellowing of the Skin or Eyes)
What Treatment Options Are There for Cirrhosis?
Unfortunately, cirrhosis cannot be cured. Treatment of the condition focuses on preventing it from progressing any further. Some treatment options include:
- Treating the Cause
If the cirrhosis is caused by another condition, treating that condition can help to stop the spread of the cirrhosis. For example, alcoholics who develop cirrhosis must stop drinking right away and patients with hepatitis can receive medications to treat it.
- Treating the Symptoms
Cirrhosis can cause a number of debilitating symptoms in the patient, such as fatigue and fluid retention. Medications are often given to lessen the effects of these symptoms on the body.
- Liver Transplant
In extreme cases of cirrhosis, the liver sometimes becomes unusable. In these cases, patients may need a transplanted liver to survive.
How Can I Prevent Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis of the liver is a terrifying condition, but in many cases it is highly preventable. By following these steps, you can greatly lessen your chances of liver disease.
- Use alcohol responsibly. Alcohol abuse is one of the main causes of cirrhosis of the liver. You do not have to be an alcoholic to damage your liver, so be careful when using alcohol.
- Get vaccinated against Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to liver problems such as cirrhosis of the liver. By getting vaccinated, you can greatly reduce your chance of contracting the disease. Whether you are vaccinated or not, you should always use protection during sexual intercourse to shield yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.
- Eat a healthy diet and stay at a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to fatty liver, a condition often causing cirrhosis.
- Avoid harmful chemicals and protect yourself when around them by using a mask and protective clothing. Although rare, exposure to chemicals such as those used in cleaning products can be a cause of cirrhosis. Always remember to wear a face mask when using chemicals, even if they are just household cleaning products.
Cirrhosis of the liver can wreak havoc on your body, especially if it is allowed to progress for a long period of time. By recognizing the early signs of cirrhosis, you can greatly increase your chances of surviving the disease if you get it. However, everybody should do their best to avoid the causes of cirrhosis so they do not get the deadly condition in the first place.
You can get help at a medical care center or your primary care giver.