Cirrhosis of the Liver: Symptoms, Stages and Life Expectancy

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Cirrhosis of the Liver: Symptoms, Stages and Life Expectancy
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As liver is enlarged and gallstones often form, the patient may feel pain and cramps in the abdomen. The abdominal area may also be swollen or bloated due to fluid retention. Because of that also ankles and legs may get swollen, which is known as edema. As the skin accumulates by-products of the bile breakdown, the sufferer often experiences itching of the skin. He or she may also become very sensitive to medications as liver cannot filter them properly.

Because of growing inability to remove toxins from the organism by the liver, they accumulate in the blood, affecting the brain. Thus, in the advanced level of the disease, the person may experience hallucinations, personality changes, delirium, or confusion. Extreme sleepiness or even coma may appear as well.

Other symptoms include hemorrhoids, easy bruising, frequent bleeding from nose or gums, presence of blood in feces or vomit. Additionally, as hormone production and metabolism are disturbed, men may experience breasts enlargement, while women suffer from irregular or abnormal periods.

What Are the Causes of Cirrhosis

There are various factors which may contribute to cirrhosis development. Unfortunately, for 30-50 percent of the cases the cause is not identified. The good news, however, is that our liver is a strong and intelligent organ as it has the ability to heal on its own if the damage is not too widespread.

1. Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse is the cause number one of cirrhosis as alcohol is a poison, which causes the inflammation and death of healthy liver cells. When that happens, scar tissue around your liver veins forms and as liver cells try to heal, they develop nodules, which also press on veins in the liver.

The scarring process of the liver is typical for alcoholics and the progression of the process depends on how long and how much you drink. However, the amount of alcohol which is dangerous is a very individual matter as it varies from person to person.

In some cases a genetical factor also matters as there are families who develop cirrhosis more easily than others.

2. Biliary Cirrhosis

A healthy liver produces bile, which is necessary to digest fats. It travels from your liver to your gallbladder and intestines by so called bile ducts, which may be described as small tubes. However, sometimes the ducts get blocked and the bile moves back.

When the bile moves back, it can severely damage your liver. The inflammation of the liver begins, which damages the liver cells and after some time leads to cirrhosis development.

Interestingly, women aged 35-60 years usually develop this serious condition. Sometimes, however, children are born with blocked bile ducts, which in medical terms is known as biliary atresia.

3. Hepatitis

Hepatitis is the inflammation of your liver, which is usually caused by viruses. There are four main types of hepatitis, which are known as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D. All of them can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis.

In the Unites States hepatitis C is the most common type of the disease, while around the world is hepatitis B. The condition develops over years, damaging healthy liver cells and leading to tissue scaring.

In order to prevent hepatitis, you need to get vaccinated against it, especially before travelling to exotic countries or before surgical operations. You can get hepatitis by using contaminated needles too, that’s why it is common among drug abusers.

4. Autoimmune Cirrhosis

Normally, your immune system protects you from some dangerous factors, such as allergens, bacteria, or viruses. In case of autoimmune diseases, however, your immune system goes crazy and starts to fight your healthy organs and body tissues.

When autoimmune hepatitis happens, your immune system starts to attack your liver, which causes the cells damage, and finally leads to cirrhosis.

5. Inherited Diseases

When it comes to liver diseases, genetics is sometimes to blame. There are various genetic diseases which disturb your metabolism or the proper functioning of your liver.

These are alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, cystic fibrosis, hemochromatosis, glycogen storage disease, galactosemia, or Wilson’s disease.

These diseases may be really devastating for your organism, but the good news is that they happen very rarely.

6. Long-term Infections, Toxins, and Drugs

Alcohol is not the only type of toxins that your liver needs to deal with. Some medications, when used for a long time, may damage this important organ too. Sometimes, toxins present in the environment in which you live may contribute to cirrhosis development as well.

Moreover, it rarely happens that your liver gets damage due to the side effect some medicine causes. Also, if there is some bacteria or infection in your organism, which is left untreated for a long time, it may lead to the liver damage and consequently to cirrhosis.

7. Cardiac Cirrhosis

The main function of your heart is to pump the blood through your body. It this process is, for some reason, disturbed, your blood moves back into your liver. This situation causes liver damage, which is known as cardiac cirrhosis. You liver gets inflamed, swollen, and painful, but in the more advanced stage it gets hard and not so painful any more.

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