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Cirrhosis Of The Liver, Overview, Treatment And Survival

Updated on April 27, 2012
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For those who aren't familiar with cirrhosis of the liver it's a disease that causes irreversible damage. That damage can result in life threatening situations if not treated properly. The earlier the disease is diagnosed the better chance of survival. Once treatment is started it should stop the progression of the disease however any damage that occurred is permanent. Unfortunately there are cases when the disease progressed that it is possible that a liver transplant is the only option next to death.

Those in the early stages of cirrhosis don't realize they are sick because no symptoms are present. Sometimes during a routine physical where blood work is normally required the results will indicate an abnormality. The blood tests are checked for certain enzymes and excess bilirubin, those are the substances that may indicate liver damage. At that time the doctor will request further testing to either confirm or rule out cirrhosis of the liver. They sometimes perform Cat Scans, MRI's and Ultra Sounds. Depending on what those tests indicate they may require a biopsy of the liver and that can indicate the extent of the damage and progression of the disease.

The onset of cirrhosis begin because the liver isn't performing the multiple functions including producing protein such as albumin that helps maintain the volume of blood in our body and blood clotting factors. The liver stores and processes the fat including the fatty acids we use for energy and processes our cholesterol. Along with metabolizing the fats the liver metabolizes carbohydrates turning them into sugar glucose in the blood that our red blood cells and our brain use. The liver will then secrete bile that turns into bile acid which helps the intestines absorb fats and vitamins, A,D,E and K. Now it will weed out the, eliminate the chemicals that turn into billrubin created by the break down of old red blood cells and the ammonia created by the breakdown of proteins. The liver then goes onto detox the drugs, alcohol and toxins from the body.

When the liver begins to fail it is usually a gradual progression and people will experience become excessively tired, weakness, loss of appetite, losing weight and nausea. At that point they still don't realize the cause. For the most part, cirrhosis isn't detected until complications set in. The most common is the appearance yellow tinge to their skin. This is known as jaundice. This begins because the billirubin is depositing into the bodies tissues. That indications that the breakdown of the old red blood cells isn't working properly. They begin to run fevers, vomit, have diarrhea, experience abdominal pain, sometimes it's extreme, itchiness, bloating, swelling caused by fluid retention, excess sleepiness, difficulty waking, weak muscles, blood in bodily functions, experience confusion, hormones issues affect both men and women, men have either larger than normal scrotims or much smaller than usual. Women's menstrual cycles falter or sometimes stop completely.

The symptoms above would be the normal progression from the moment the liver damage begins in a person. A person who's liver damage is untreated will continue to experience worsening symptoms until their ultimate death. Those who begin receiving treatment will either slow down the process or be lucky and have the damage stop progressing. However, the damage that has taken place can't be repaired.

This treatment reflects on the changes you need to make in your life style. Those who partake in alcoholic beverages must stop, they have no choice. The decision is the difference between life and death. Over the counter medications that must be avoided are, acetaminophen, this is harmful to your liver and ibuprofen which is harmful to your kidney's. Begin a low sodium diet, avoid frozen dinners, foods high in sodium to alleviate fluid retention. Concentrate on eating healthier, a well balanced diet that provide the right amount of calories and protein intake. Depending on whether the liver damage has caused complications with the brain you may need to decrease the protein intake.

If the cirrhosis is caused by other factors other than alcohol their are certain medications that can help such as steroids or anti inflammatory medications that can prolong and have been know to improve the survival rate. There are times beta blockers are used to lower the pressure in the blood vessels to avoid fluid build up that is caused when the pressure in the blood vessels are to high. If necessary their doctor will prescribe a form of medication that relieves excess body fluid. When there are large amounts of excess fluid they may need to have a tube inserted into the abdomen to remove the fluid. That is only a temporary fix because the fluid will keep building up and have to be removed time and time again. Their is the chance that the fluid can become infected in which case hospitalization and IV antibiotics are a necessity to fight the infection. Depending on the severity of the infection you may be given a drink, lactulose that reduces the toxins absorbed into you intestinal tract. Milder cases are sent home with oral medication. Over the counter anti itch, oral medication or creams that you apply to affected areas are approved by most doctors to relieve the itching that some people experience.

Those patients who have received the treatments and show no signs of improvement may be placed on a liver transplant list. There are certain criteria that must be met when applying for a transplant. Those who receive a liver transplant must take anti rejection medications the rest of their lives, follow a strict diet and continue follow up visits with their doctor and abide by the rules set for to assist your survival.

To maximize their chance of survival following a liver transplants there are strict guidelines that need to be adhered to:

  • Wear a medical bracelet or necklace -- anyone attending to you MUST know that you had a liver transplant. Their medical treatment provided may be different based off that information.
  • Avoid anyone who has a cold, flu, or does not feel well until that person is free of symptoms. You can't afford to get sick and take the chance that you'll jeopardize your health.
  • Stay away from crowded areas, malls, restaurants, museums, to prevent yourself from coming in contact with someone who has anything form of sickness.
  • Stay away from areas under construction or areas where animals live or have lived in case their is particles that may contain dangerous germs or chemicals.
  • Don't handle remnants of feces from any animal. The majority of those contain germs that will be dangerous to your health.
  • Bathe or Shower everyday. Before and after meals or using the bathroom wash with antibacterial hand wash. Always carry hand sanitizer with you.
  • Wash any fresh fruit or vegetable before eating. These can contain fungi and ingesting that can prove fatal.
  • Immediately wash minor cuts and scrapes with soap and water. If they do not heal well, contact the transplant coordinator.
  • Report any blisters, sores, suspicious lumps, or growths in the armpits, groin, or elsewhere in the body to the transplant coordinator.
  • Check with the transplant team before taking any prescription medication or having any vaccinations.
  • Do not smoke!
  • Stay away from day care centers for children or adults where there may be exposure to childhood infections and shingles.
  • Talk to the transplant team before doing any traveling. Ask if their are places you should avoid. A form of transportation that is restricted or frowned upon. If they approve you traveling always have your medication with you. You can't afford miss any of your dosages. Keep a bottle of water with you in case you're in a spot where there isn't any available at medication time.

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    • Mahmo profile image

      Mahmo 5 years ago

      Thank you very much for this informative hub.

    • profile image

      Roohi Khan 5 years ago from India

      Good article.

    • Catzgendron profile image
      Author

      Catzgendron 5 years ago from North Chelmsford

      Thank you very much. I was surprised when I discovered what the liver does. The liver is a multi tasking organ that relates more to our survival than I realized.

    • Jenna Pope profile image

      Jenna Pope 5 years ago from Southern California

      Very good article. I learned a lot from reading about the liver. Voted up.