Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease characterized by degeneration of liver cells. Normal liver cells are replaced by fibrous tissue and are unable to perform the functions of the liver (production of digestive enzymes, processing of hormones, fatmetabolism, elimination of toxic products, etc.). The liver becomes inflamed, enlarged and stops working properly.
Because the liver is vital to human metabolism, cirrhosis is a very serious disease, responsible for many deaths, constituting the third leading cause of death in people from 40 to 65.
Within the course of the disease, different complications can occur as the disease progresses such as, for example, bleeding in the esophagus, hypertension, mental problems, liver failure, liver cancer or colon.
It is very important to prevent disease prevention those causes that produce it (see listing above), especially in regard to hepatitis B and C and alcoholism.
Also you should avoid prolonged contact with those substances that can damage the liver. Presented any symptoms that denote a malfunction of the liver is absolutely necessary to go quickly to a specialist to diagnose and treat potential problems that could lead to liver cirrhosis.
Types of cirrhosis
Among the various types of cirrhosis we have the following ones:
- Nutritional cirrhosis (portal cirrhosis): It is the most common since it constitutes 40 or 50% of all cases of cirrhosis. The main cause is alcoholism.
- Biliary cirrhosis: It results from the degeneration of the bile ducts within the liver. It affects from 20% to 40% of patients with cirrhosis.
- Pigmentary cirrhosis (hemochromatosis): It is caused by poor metabolism of hemoglobin, which produces, among other consequences, a discoloration of the skin and liver degeneration. From 5 to 10% of cirrhosis patients respond to this cause.
- Postnecrotic cirrhosis: It responds to the long-term infections of the liver. It can explain 40% of cases of cirrhosis.
Symptoms of cirrhosis
Sometimes it does not present any symptoms. This occurs in 10% of patients and is what is known as decompensated cirrhosis. In all other cases the most characteristic symptoms are:
- Gastrointestinal disorders: The inability of the diseased liver in metabolizing food is manifested as digestive disorders, among which we would have to include: poor digestion, abdominal bloating, bad breath, coated tongue, nausea, vomiting, vomiting with presence of blood.
Sometimes some other additional symptoms can occur, such as diarrhea, white or clay colored stools due to the lack of bile that is retained in the intrahepatic bile ducts. Similarly, urine is usually black or brown (dark urine). The poor metabolism of food leads to weight loss and a state of generalized weakness.
- Circulatory disorders: This disease causes a type of hypertension called portal hypertension, which is responsible for the appearance of varicose veins in the stomach and esophagus that sometimes are responsible for large hemorrhages. This disease is responsible for lack of blood clotting (coagulopathy) that is causing heavy and prolonged bleeding (It is very common for bleeding hemorrhoids or bleeding that may occur on the gums or nose. Sometimes stools are even shown dark). Beneath the skin of the chest and shoulders very red small veins may appear with the shape of spiders. The palms may become red. Bleeding is usually responsible in many cases for the development of anemia.
- Metabolic disorders: Among these the most significant is the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, that's to say in the cavity that includes the stomach and intestines. This disease is known as ascites. Sometimes there is a decrease in the urine, that can lead to the development of edema in the legs or general swelling. There is a poor control of blood sugar in the blood. Sugar low levels can produce lack of energy, dizziness, etc.
- Neuronal disorders: Cirrhosis can affect the health of the brain and nervous system. The accumulation of toxins in the body (especially ammonia), caused primarily by metabolism of proteins, and the inability to eliminate the cirrhotic liver, may poison the neurons producing alterations in reason or behavior of patients with cirrhosis. This condition is known as portal or hepatic encephalopathy and is an indicator that the liver is in very bad condition. Among the most characteristic symptoms are: hallucinations, dizziness, speech problems, tremors, memory problems, need to sleep during the day, etc.
- Skin disorders: General poisoning of the body is manifested in the skin condition. The accumulation of bilirubin in the blood causes the yellowing of the skin, which is the most characteristic symptom of jaundice. Besides the skin, it also appears in the whites of the eyes that become yellow. Jaundice may be the clearest symptom of biliary cirrhosis.
- Sexual disorders: Hormonal changes caused by the malfunction of the liver, resulting in a decreased level of testosterone, is sometimes responsible for the decline in the testes in males or an increase in their breasts. The latter is known as gynecomastia. Sometimes there is a loss of body hair in men. In women some cases menstruation problems can occur.