The injured or damaged liver cells lead to the formation of non-functional scar tissue inside the liver. The condition is called 'liver cirrhosis'. The healthy liver tissue gets replaced with scar tissue gradually during cirrhosis. Scarring of the liver is caused by long-term injury or damage to the liver cells, which results in loss of liver function. Cirrhosis of the liver stage 4 indicates the advanced stage of the disease. Liver plays an important role in digestion and detoxification. Cirrhosis seriously affects the function of the liver. Unfortunately, liver cirrhosis cannot be reversed. The treatment for involves only prevention of further progression of the disease.
Stages of Liver Cirrhosis
During the initial stage of cirrhosis, the body normally does not exhibit any symptoms. If closely observed, symptoms like dry mouth, fatigue, jaundice and enlargement of the upper stomach area can be seen. Itching sensation is also sometimes experienced by the person. These symptoms indicate a problem in liver function. Inflammation of the liver and formation of abnormal tissue in the liver can be detected with the help of proper medical tests.
However, progression of the disease and deterioration of the function of the liver is very slow. A biopsy helps determine the advancement of the disease. The initial stage of liver cirrhosis is called 'compensated stage', as the body successfully manages and compensates on its own for all the shortcomings that are brought on by malfunctioning of the liver.
During this stage, abnormal tissues developed inside the liver get transformed into stiff bands of connective tissues. This process is known as fibrosis. Fibrosis and inflammation of the liver spreads and affects the portal veins and the surrounding regions.
As the disease advances, all the stiff bands begin to merge with each other. This leads to the enlargement of the affected areas. Disruption of liver functions is generally noticed during this stage, as the person experiences inability to digest fats. Vitamin deficiency can also be noticed due to problem in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
The final stage of liver cirrhosis is known as the decompensated stage of cirrhosis. This stage is the most dreaded one. Liver transplant is the only treatment option for patients in the decompensated stage. Worsening of all the symptoms is noticed during this stage.
Liver Cirrhosis Symptoms
- Extreme thirst
- Thick coating on the dorsal surface of the tongue
- Abdominal bloating
- Dull ache in the liver area
- Spider moles
- Liver shrinkage
- Intense itching in skin
- Liver palms
- Low-grade fever
- Severe fatigue, exhaustion, unusual sleepiness
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain and cramps
- Easy bruising and bleeding (especially in the abdominal region)
- Confusion, slurring of speech
Liver Cirrhosis Life Expectancy
Cirrhosis of the liver stage 4 can result in severe health complications like portal hypertension, spleen enlargement, hardening of liver, kidney dysfunction and accumulation of fluid in the body. Loss of bone mass and a drop in the bone density can also be noticed. Pertaining to the impaired liver functioning, the body loses its ability to detoxify itself, which leads to concentration of toxins in the body. This results in severe confusion, even coma.
In this modern world, liver cirrhosis is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. There are many types of cirrhosis, based on the causes. Alcoholic cirrhosis has the worst prognosis, when compared to primary biliary cirrhosis or cirrhosis induced by hepatitis. Cirrhosis life expectancy can be about 15 to 20 years if cirrhosis is detected during an early stage.
If the disease is detected in the second stage, life expectancy will be about 6 to 10 years. Patients in earlier stages can opt for the latest treatment options like liver transplant, latest medicines, etc. If cirrhosis is diagnosed during the last stage, then life expectancy will be about 1-3 years, depending upon the patient's overall health, availability of advanced treatment, severity of the symptoms, etc.
Liver cirrhosis does not have a sudden onset, it takes years of damage to produce harmful scarring, and then many more years of abuse for the liver to stop functioning completely. Overlooked underlying conditions make the condition deadly. Cirrhosis treatment can help stop or slow down the progression of the disease. During the fourth stage of liver cirrhosis, liver failure and other health complications may eventually lead to the death of the person.
Now that you know how cirrhosis of the liver and death are closely associated, there is no need to explain the significance of routine medical checkup in your life. Routine checkup helps monitor the liver function and helps detect a problem at an earlier stage. Cirrhosis is mostly detected during the tests conducted for some other health problems. Half-yearly routine examination can help improve your chances of detecting cirrhosis at an early stage.