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Cirrhosis – Pictures, Life Expectancy, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on August 18, 2014

Cirrhosis refers to scarring of the liver. It may be caused by hepatitis, chronic abuse of alcohol, and other different types of liver conditions and diseases.

Cirrhosis develops as a response to liver damage that occurs over a period of several years. It is not possible to undo the damage afflicted by cirrhosis. However, it is possible to limit the extent of damage via early diagnosis and prompt treatment of the underlying cause.

The progress and worsening of cirrhosis causes formation of more scar tissue resulting in liver function problems and effectiveness. Advanced instances of cirrhosis can prove to be fatal.

Symptoms of cirrhosis

Often, cirrhosis does not cause any signs and symptoms till the time there is extensive liver damage. Some common symptoms of cirrhosis are listed below:

  • Easy bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Easy bruising
  • Yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin
  • Skin itchiness
  • Ascites, i.e., collection of fluid in the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss in weight
  • Edema or swelling of the lower limbs

Causes of cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is caused by formation of scar tissue in the liver as a response to liver damage that happens over several years. The liver engages in self-repair after every instance of liver damage. This process results in development of scar tissue. The continual buildup of scar tissue leads to progressive impairment of liver functionality. In cases of advanced cirrhosis, the liver stops functioning at its optimum, or as well.

Determining the underlying cause of cirrhosis is vital, as treating the causative condition can help prevent additional damage to the liver. Liver damage which results in cirrhosis can occur due to many different conditions and diseases such as:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Prolonged alcohol abuse
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, i.e., accumulation of fat in the liver.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis, i.e., scarring, hardening, and thickening of the bile ducts
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis, i.e., bile ducts destruction.
  • Hemochromatosis, i.e., deposition of iron in the body.
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, i.e., liver disease arising due to a malfunctioning immune system.
  • Glycogen storage disease or galactosemia, i.e., sugar metabolism hereditary disorders.
  • Schistosomiasis, i.e., parasitic infections, often prevalent in developing nations.
  • Wilson's disease, i.e., buildup of copper in liver.
  • Biliaryatresia, i.e., poorly or improperly developed bile ducts

Some individuals may suffer from multiple causes of cirrhosis, like viral hepatitis and abuse of alcohol. The cause also often cannot be diagnosed or identified in about 20 percent of cirrhosis patients.

Treatment of cirrhosis

Cirrhosis treatment is dependent on the causative factors and the severity of damage to the liver. Treatment is aimed at slowing down the advancement of liver scar tissue, and managing, alleviating, and preventingcirrhosis symptoms and health complications.

During the initial stages of cirrhosis liver damage can be minimized by treating the underlying cause. For example, weight loss for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; alcohol addiction treatment; and medicines for controlling hepatitis, itchiness, pain, fatigue, etc.

Severe cases of cirrhosis may require hospitalization or even a liver transplant.

Cirrhosis and life expectancy of patients

Liver is a vital organ and any type of irreversible or irreparable damage to it can greatly lower the life expectancy.Doctors typically use the Child-Pugh score to verify the life expectancy of cirrhosis and other kinds of liver diseases. The score helps ascertain the correct treatment and whether or not a liver transplantation is necessary. Five clinical measures are used in Child-Pugh score to show the advancement of the disease. All the measures are scored on a scale of one to three.

The 5 clinical measure are:

  • Serum albumin (g/l)
  • Total bilirubin {╬╝mol/l (mg/dl)}
  • PT INR (Prothrombin time)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy (Impairment of brain functionality because of restricted ability of the liver to eliminate toxins from blood)
  • Ascites (Buildup of fluidswithin the peritoneal cavity)

The score is calculated using the above measures. Later persistent liver disease is categorized in classes A to C, as per the Child-Pugh score. The score is explained in the table below:

Please refer to the table at the bottom of the article

As per the above table, patients in Class A have an 85 percent chance of survival for a 2 year period, while those in Class C have only 35 percent survival rate for a 2 year period post diagnosis of cirrhosis. We can conclude that Class C shows high risk of patient fatality.

Sometimes, patients may experience the symptoms of cirrhosis about 2 years after its development. Some patients may become very sick in 3 to 5 years. Once the early symptoms such as itchiness vanish and jaundice makes an appearance, then it can be established that the illness has progressed to an advanced stage. The life expectancy subsequently reduces to only around 34 to 66 percent for ten years.

1 Year Survival
2 Year Survival
5 to 6
7 to 9
10 to 15


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