Munson Health
 
Cirrhosis

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by Wood D
 

Causes

Causes of cirrhosis include:
 

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of having cirrhosis include:
 

Symptoms

Cirrhosis often does not cause symptoms early in the disease process. Symptoms start when the liver begins to fail, as scar tissue replaces healthy cells. Symptom severity depends on the extent of liver damage.
Cirrhosis may cause:
As cirrhosis progresses, it may cause:
  • Jaundice —yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Water retention and swelling in the legs and abdomen
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Loss of body hair
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Vomiting blood
  • Neurological problems, such as forgetfulness, confusion, agitation, or tremors
  • Inability to process medications
Complications of cirrhosis may include:
 

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Other tests may include:
  • Inserting a catheter into the liver vein and measuring the pressure within that vein; rarely necessary
  • Removing fluid from the abdomen and examining it
  • Other tests to determine what caused the cirrhosis and what complications may occur
 

Treatment

There is no cure for cirrhosis. The goals of treatment are to keep the condition from getting worse, including:
  • Control the cause
  • Treat underlying medical conditions
  • Prevent additional damage
  • Treat symptoms and complications
  • Liver cancer screenings
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Medication

Doctors prescribe drugs to:
  • Treat hepatitis and complications that arise
  • Reduce the absorption of waste products and toxins in the digestive system
  • Reduce the risk of a blood vessel-breaking
  • Fight infections
  • Shed excess fluids

Surgery

Liver transplant —may be done if:
  • Complications can no longer be controlled using medical therapy
  • The liver stops functioning
Endoscopy —This is used to tie off bleeding blood vessels (varices) or to inject drugs to cause clotting. A thin tool with a lighted tip is inserted down the throat to help the doctor see and access the varices, which are located in the esophagus.

Self-care

  • Stop drinking alcohol completely.
  • Do not take any medications without your doctor's approval, including over-the-counter drugs.
  • Eat a balanced diet . Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as lean proteins, like beans and poultry.
  • If your liver disease is more advanced, you may need to limit protein intake, because your weakened liver will not be able to process it properly.
  • You may need to limit salt in your diet, because it increases water retention.
  • Take any vitamin supplements your doctor recommends.
  • Put your feet and legs up to decrease swelling.
  • Due to increased risk of infections, take these steps:
    • Getting vaccines for flu , pneumonia , and hepatitis
    • Avoiding raw seafood
    • Avoiding people who are sick with communicable diseases, like the flu or common cold
    • Washing your hands often
If you are diagnosed with cirrhosis, follow your doctor's instructions .
 

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of developing cirrhosis, take these steps:
 

RESOURCES

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

American Liver Foundation
http://www.liverfoundation.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Liver Foundation
http://www.liver.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

 

References


American Academy of Family Physicians. Information from your family doctor. Cirrhosis and chronic liver failure: what you should know. Am Fam Physician. 2006;75(5):781.


Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis . Updated February 21, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2013.


Cirrhosis of the liver. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated July 19, 2013. Accessed August 28, 2013.


Hirschfield GM, Gershwin ME. Primary biliary cirrhosis: one disease with many faces. Isr Med Assoc J. 2011;13(1):55-59.


Molodecky NA, Kareemi H, Parab R, Barkema HW, Quan H, Myers RP, Kaplan GG. Incidence of primary sclerosing cholangitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Hepatology. 2011;53(5):1590-1599.


Understanding cirrhosis of the liver. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/cirrhosis-of-the-liver . Accessed August 28, 2013.


2/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Chang Y, Ryu S, Sung E, et al. Weight gain within the normal weight range predicts ultrasonographically detected fatty liver in healthy Korean men. Gut . 2009;58(10):1419-1425.

 

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