The earlier stages of liver cirrhosis are often ignored, since symptoms and complications do not show up until actual damage is done to the liver.
Causes of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is caused by many different things, including chronic alcoholism and Hepatitis C. Other causes include chronic hepatitis B and D viruses, autoimmune hepatitis, inherited diseases, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), blocked bile ducts and excessive drug use. Drug use is not limited to illegal substances; it also includes regular use of certain prescription drugs. Environmental toxins, schistosomiasis and repeated heart failure can also cause cirrhosis.
The early stages are generally not noticed, as there are no symptoms. Cirrhosis causes damage to the liver wherein healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue. As more and more of the liver becomes unusable because of the scar tissue, liver function begins to fail.
Symptoms that appear after scar tissue starts taking over healthy tissue include exhaustion, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, weakness, weight loss, abdominal pain and spider angiomas on the skin.
Complications of Cirrhosis
As the disease continues to progress, additional complications develop. Some people notice the fatigue and other symptoms first, while most notice the complications from later stages of cirrhosis first. Complications include edema, ascites, excessive bruising and bleeding, jaundice, itching, gallstones, a sensitivity to medication, portal hypertension, varices, Type 2 Diabetes, insulin resistance, liver cancer and toxins in the blood or brain. Toxins accumulate because the damaged liver cannot do its job and remove them. Toxins may cause unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, concentration troubles, a change in sleep habits and neglect of personal appearance.
In the severe end stages, the immune system may not function properly, which leads to infection. Cirrhosis is usually diagnosed by lab tests, medical history and a physical examination.
Damage done to the liver by cirrhosis cannot be cured, and in some cases a liver transplant is the only treatment option. If the illness is caught early, changes to diet and lifestyle, coupled with medication, will slow the progression of the disease.