Cirrhosis

by Kemboi Kibet

Cirrhosis is a liver disease which involves irreversible scarring of the liver. Some of the common causes of cirrhosis includes alcohol abuse, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Early treatment of cirrhosis can limit further damage to the liver. This disease can be life threatening.

CAUSES

This disease is caused by long-term liver damage as a result of liver diseases and other conditions. Diseases and conditions that can cause cirrhosis includes the following

alcohol abuse
chronic viral hepatitis
bile duct disease such as biliary atresia
cystic fibrosis
genetic diseases such as glycogen storage diseases, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, autoimmune hepatitis and Wilson’s disease
schistosomiasis
accumulation of fat in the liver

SYMPTOMS

Cirrhosis can be asymptomatic but when symptoms do appear, they usually include the following

itching skin
jaundice
fatigue
loss of appetite
easy bruising and bleeding
weight loss
Fluid build up and painful swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites)
abdominal pain

TEST AND DIAGNOSIS

To diagnose cirrhosis, your doctor will do a physical exam. He may also ask you about your medical history. Other tests that will be done to confirm this diagnosis include :

Liver function test : This blood test is done to checked for excess bilirubin and certain enzymes that may indicate liver damage.

Imaging tests : These include MRI, CT scan and ultrasound to check for liver damage.

Biopsy :A sample liver tissue is taken and examined for the cause and severity of liver damage.

TREATMENT

Treatment of cirrhosis depends on the cause and extent of damage to the liver. The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage and avoid complications.It is also important to treat any underlying cause of the disease such as losing weight, stop drinking and medications of hepatitis. Any associated complications will also be treated. In advanced stages when the liver loses it’s function,liver transplant is necessary.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES THAT CAN HELP YOU MANAGE CIRRHOSIS

Stop drinking alcohol.
Maintain a healthy weight
Limit salt intake to reduce fluid buildup
Avoid raw shellfish
Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, influenza, and pneumonia.
Ask your doctor before using any over the counter medications, vitamins or supplement.
Practice safe sex to avoid any infections.
Do not share needles, razors, toothbrushes or other personal items with others

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