A healthy liver benefits the body by regenerating most damaged cells, but when affected by sclerosis of liver, this organ of the human body is unable to replace these damaged cells. Sclerosis or cirrhosis as it is more commonly known is a disease that progresses to slowly effect the proper functioning of the liver. In this article, we try to tell you more about this disease, the causes for the same, its symptoms, the treatment process.
Sclerosis of the Liver
Sclerosis of the liver occurs when scar tissues or regenerative nodules form in the liver and start replacing healthy tissues. Due to this scar tissue formation, the liver losses its ability to produce proteins that regulate blood clotting, control and fight infections, filter blood by removing bacteria and toxins, digest food, store energy, and produce bile that absorbs fats including cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins. If affected by this disease, then the healthy liver tissue is slowly and steadily replaced by scar tissue which greatly affects the functioning of the organ.
Causes of Liver Sclerosis
Sclerosis of the liver is not caused by trauma or acute or short-term damage to the liver. It mainly occurs due to a chronic disease or injury left untreated for a long time. Following are some of the causes that may result in liver sclerosis.
- Alcohol addiction
- Chronic Hepatitis B, C or D, which infects the liver of the person, can lead to cirrhosis
- Auto immune hepatitis, condition in which the body's immune system attacks the liver cells, causing inflammation, damage, and eventually cirrhosis
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a disorder in which fat gets deposited in the liver and causes liver inflammation
- Prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals, drug reactions, parasitic infections, etc.
- Genetically inherited diseases like hemochromatosis, cystic fibrosis, Wilson's disease or protoporphyria
- Blockage or damage of the bile ducts, causing the bile to back up in the liver
Symptoms of Liver Sclerosis
Usually no symptoms are observed during the initial stages of the disease, but as it progresses the patient may experience the following symptoms.
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain and bloating due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen
- Skin and the whites of the eyes start turning yellow.
- Spider-like blood vessels on the skin
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of sclerosis of the liver is usually confirmed by physical examination, blood tests and imaging. During the evaluation, the doctor may ask about the patient's medical history and examine the medical signs experienced by the patient. The doctor may also ask the patient to undergo a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood test or a liver scan, as this will help him get a better idea and help him evaluate the signs of liver enlargement, reduced blood flow, and ascites. For better diagnosis, the doctor may insert a laparoscope in the abdomen or may even perform a liver biopsy in which a needle is inserted between the ribs or into a vein in the neck.
Often patients suffering from sclerosis may show other complications. The prognosis for sclerosis of the liver may worsen if the patient is displaying complications such as variceal bleeding, kidney failure, diabetes, blood count levels variation, hepatic encephalopathy, bleeding and bruising, muscle mass reduction, etc. Proper treatment of these complications is important and for the same, proper medication and diet is essential.
Malnutrition is commonly observed in people suffering from liver sclerosis, hence, a healthy diet is essential during all stages of sclerosis of liver. The patient should follow a well-balanced meal plan recommended by the doctor or health care provider. The patient should avoid eating raw shellfish, as it can cause serious bacterial infection and should follow a sodium restricted diet. To improve the body's nutrient intake, fruits, juices and liquid supplements can be consumed. Since alcohol is considered to be one of the major cause of the disease, its intake should not be encouraged as it will cause more damage to the liver. Oral and intravenous antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent severe infection. For treating sclerosis of the liver due to any type of hepatitis, interferon, corticosteroid and other antiviral drugs are usually prescribed.
The treatment for sclerosis of liver mainly depends upon the cause of the disease, symptoms observed and various complications associated with it. The main aim of the treatment is to slow the progression of scar tissues in the liver. If the treatment of the complications that are by-products of the disease becomes ineffective, then a liver transplant may be the sole treatment process.
The disease affects men slightly more often than women and can be fatal if not treated on time. In order to prevent the onset of this disease, especially if you are a heavy drinker, it is important to reduce the intake of alcohol as much as possible. It is important that you get yourself vaccinated for hepatitis B infection, ensure that your diet is a balanced one, and that you practice safe sex. I am sure by now you must be having a fair idea of what is sclerosis of the liver and the different parameters related to it.