What is Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcohol abuse. The liver is in charge of necessary functions, including detoxifying harmful substances in your body, cleaning your blood and making vital nutrients.
Cirrhosis occurs in response to damage to your liver. The liver damage done by cirrhosis is irreversible. But if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the cause is treated, further damage can be limited.
What are the symptoms of Cirrhosis?
The symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver vary with the stage of the illness. In the beginning stages, there may not be any symptoms. As the disease worsens, symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy (fatigue), which may be debilitating
- Weight loss or sudden weight gain
- Yellowing of skin or the whites of eyes (jaundice)
- Itchy skin
- Fluid retention (edema) and swelling in the ankles, legs, and abdomen (often an early sign)
- A brownish or orange tint to the urine
- Light colored stools
- Confusion, disorientation, personality changes
- Blood in the stool
How is Cirrhosis Diagnosed?
Since people with early-stage cirrhosis of the liver usually don't have symptoms, the disease is often first detected through a routine blood test or checkup. We may order one or more tests or procedures to diagnose cirrhosis:
- Liver and Kidney Function Test
- Blood Test
- Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE)
- MRI, CT and ultrasound
How is Cirrhosis Treated?
Treatment for cirrhosis will depend on the cause and extent of liver damage. The goals of treatment are to:
- slow the progression of scar tissue in the liver
- prevent or treat symptoms and complications of cirrhosis
For cirrhosis caused by alcohol abuse, the person must stop drinking alcohol to halt the progression of cirrhosis. If a person has hepatitis, the doctor may prescribe steroids or antiviral drugs to reduce liver cell injury. Liver transplantation may be needed for some people with severe cirrhosis.