Cirrhosis of the liver is a chronic disease that seriously affects the function of the liver. In case of liver failure, liver transplant is the only option left for the patient. Cirrhosis prognosis is favorable only if the disease is diagnosed at an earlier stage. But during the initial stage of liver cirrhosis, the body successfully counterbalances or compensates on its own for all the shortcomings that are brought on by malfunctioning of the liver. The early stage of liver cirrhosis is therefore, called 'compensated stage'. No symptoms are noticed during the early stages of the disease, and it is usually diagnosed when it enters the last stage. The disease is therefore known as a 'silent killer'.
Liver cirrhosis, also known as liver sclerosis, indicates an irreversible condition wherein a large amount of normal liver tissue is replaced with non-functioning scar tissue. It develops when the liver cells are damaged. Medicines do not help regenerate new liver cells. Alcoholism and chronic hepatitis B/C can cause liver cirrhosis. Certain other diseases like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and certain medications can cause liver cirrhosis. Autoimmune inflammation of the liver, abnormal levels of iron and copper leading to metabolic disorders, and disorders of the biliary system can lead to liver cirrhosis. Poor appetite, weight loss, and constant weakness, sickness, and tiredness are some of the common liver sclerosis symptoms which are generally misinterpreted. Usually, the disease is detected in its later stages, and the person has to face several serious health complications like bleeding disorders, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, liver cancer, kidney failure, portal hypertension, confusion, etc. Physical examination, blood test, ultrasound, biopsy, etc. help diagnose the disease. Whatever may be the cause of the disease, lifestyle changes that support liver health, for example, stopping all alcohol and fatty food intake, are critical.
Symptoms of liver cirrhosis initially resemble the symptoms of other common diseases. Itching sensation all over the body, red blotches on the palms, change in nails, portal hypertension, spleen enlargement, hardening of liver, kidney dysfunction and accumulation of fluid in the body can be noticed as a result of the complications of cirrhosis. Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, loss of bone mass, a drop in the bone density result in rapid weight loss. Jaundice indicates an advanced stage of liver cirrhosis. As liver function is impaired, body detoxification is not possible. There are not enough antioxidants left to fight the free radicals. Therefore, increased concentration of toxins in the body is noticed, which results in severe confusion or even coma.
Liver cirrhosis does not develop suddenly, gradual development of harmful scarring over the years is a characteristic feature of this disease. It takes many years for the liver to stop functioning completely. Poor prognosis of liver cirrhosis is mainly due to undetected or neglected underlying conditions. It is difficult to treat this condition as it is usually detected at an advanced stage. Liver cirrhosis treatment is so designed that it helps stop or slow down the progression of the disease.
The liver being a vital organ, liver dysfunction can shorten the life of the patient substantially. According to the statistics, after heart disease and cancer, liver cirrhosis is the third leading cause of death by disease. Prognosis of alcoholic cirrhosis is the worst prognosis, when compared to prognosis of primary biliary cirrhosis or prognosis of cirrhosis caused by hepatitis. Cirrhosis life expectancy is estimated to be about 15 to 20 years if it is detected during the initial stage. Life expectancy of patients diagnosed with cirrhosis in the second stage, will be about 6 to 10 years. These patients have enough time to undergo liver transplant. They can choose from the latest treatment options and medicines to control the advancement of the disease. When cirrhosis of the liver is diagnosed during the last stage, the life expectancy is about 1-3 years, depending upon the patient's overall health, prompt use of advanced treatment, etc.
This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Liver cirrhosis is mostly asymptomatic and cirrhosis prognosis is mostly very poor. Generally, people visit hospitals for discussing some other health problems, and then they suddenly discover that they are having advanced liver cirrhosis. Undergoing half-yearly routine medical checkup is essential to avoid this situation. Avoiding alcohol and following a healthy diet cannot reverse the condition of liver cirrhosis, these measures can just impede the advancement of the disease. But, these steps can increase the patient's life span considerably, as the treatment along with lifestyle changes can delay further progression of the disease and help reduce health complications.