If you or someone you know is living with chronic liver damage, then you know how important it is to receive ongoing care from an experienced and caring gastroenterologist to attend to your medical needs.
With an individualized approach to testing and treatment, we diagnose and address conditions using the latest technologies and advanced methods.
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What is Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is a condition that occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver.
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. The liver does many important things including:
- Removes waste from the body, such as toxins and medicines
- Makes bile to help digest food
- Stores sugar that the body uses for energy
- Makes new proteins
Scarring impairs the liver’s ability to:
- Control infections
- Remove bacteria and toxins from the blood
- Process nutrients, hormones, and drugs
- Make proteins that regulate blood clotting
- Produce bile to help absorb fats — including cholesterol — and fat-soluble vitamins
A person cannot function productively or live an active lifestyle without a healthy working liver, which makes cirrhosis a serious disease to have. To find out more about Cirrhosis, click here.
A diagnosis of cirrhosis begins with a thorough personal and family history background and physical exam.
The history may reveal long-term alcohol abuse, exposure to hepatitis C, family history of autoimmune diseases, or other risk factors.
The following tests may also be ordered:
To measure how well the liver is functioning. and to determine if the patient may have hepatitis.
A tiny sample of liver cells is extracted and examined under a microscope. The biopsy can confirm cirrhosis and its cause.
A gastroenterologist inserts a long, thin tube with a light and video camera at the end that goes through the esophagus and into the stomach.
A gastroenterologist will look out for swollen blood vessels that can be a sign of cirrhosis.
CT scan (computed tomography)
A CT scan is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
An ultrasound shows your internal organs as they work. It checks how blood is flowing through different blood vessels.
An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs.
Symptoms don’t appear during the early stages of cirrhosis. You may only start showing symptoms until the disorder has progressed.
When the liver becomes more damaged, some of the symptoms include:
- Nose bleeds
- Weight loss
- jaundice (yellow discoloration)
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or tenderness in the area around the liver
- itchy skin
More serious symptoms include:
- Confusion and difficulty thinking clearly
- Abdominal swelling (ascites)
- Swelling of the legs (edema)
- Bleeding gums
- Vomiting blood
- Urine is dark
- Muscle cramps
- Experience walking problems
Cirrhosis Causes and Risk Factors
You are more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver if you:
- Abuse alcohol regularly over many years
- Have hepatitis B, C, or D
- Have liver inherited disease or family history
- Have diabetes
- Are obese
- Inject drugs using shared needles
- Have unprotected sex
- Have diabetes
- Take drugs or exposed to prolonged exposure of toxic chemicals or parasites.
Since nothing can be done about scarring that has already occurred, treatment is concentrated on helping patients avoid complications of the disease and blocking further damage.
Treatment options are dependent on the cause and diagnosis of cirrhosis. Options include:
- Eliminating alcohol intake (in cases of alcohol abuse) and maintaining a healthy diet
- Medications, including interferon and corticosteroids
- Endoscopy to treat enlarged blood vessels
- Diuretics or laxatives to reduce the buildup of fluids
- Liver transplantation, which should be considered when cirrhosis is severe and the liver is failing to function.
What is the outlook for those with liver cirrhosis?
The general health of a patient with cirrhosis is always dependent on the underlying causes of cirrhosis and how successful treatment measures are to halt further liver damage.
There is no cure for liver cirrhosis, and a transplant remains the most effective treatment (when successful) for the best possible quality of life once damage to the organ occurs.
Is cirrhosis cancer?
No, cirrhosis of the liver isn’t cancer. However, most people who have liver cancer have cirrhosis. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased risk of liver cancer.
Can liver damage be reversed?
Cirrhosis is generally not considered to be reversible. However, there are different degrees of cirrhosis which range from early to late stage.
If your liver disease or complication is caught early and successfully managed, it may be possible to slow or stop the progression of the disease.
One of the most important factors to ensure you stay healthy and try to lower your risk levels.
- If you routinely drink alcohol, stop drinking.
- If you are overweight or obese, lose weight, and exercise more.
- Eat healthy: A diet full of vegetables and fruits along with foods that provide lean protein is highly recommended. Reduction in fried and fatty food is good.
- If you have hepatitis C or hepatitis B and are eligible for treatment, get started on medications to try to clear the virus.
- If you smoke, stop immediately.
How do I know if I have cirrhosis if I don’t show any symptoms?
In the early stages of cirrhosis, symptoms usually don’t appear. The only way to know for sure is to get examined by a medical doctor, such as a gastroenterologist.
Early diagnosis of cirrhosis can help prevent symptoms from developing and make your treatment plan more effective.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.