According to the American Liver Foundation, one out of five heavy drinkers develop liver cirrhosis. There’s no real way to figure out who will get liver cirrhosis or not. It nearly appears randomly except for one common factor: heavy alcohol intake and general poor health.
Liver cirrhosis is one of the worst diseases alcohol drinkers will get. What is liver cirrhosis? How does it progress and what can we do to avoid it?
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
Let’s start with the liver. Considered to be the chemical laboratory of your digestive system, the liver has a lot of functions. People commonly know that the liver detoxifies toxins that enter the body. This is only one of its tasks among a lot of other important functions such as:
- Assists in creating hormones, proteins and other compounds essential for body function
- Regulates your body cholesterol and helps in processing fat
- Produces proteins responsible for blood clotting
- Produces proteins that help fight infection
- Regulates the body’s overall metabolic processes
The liver has a lot of blood vessels where blood from the intestines comes from. From there, the liver processes nutrients to make them usable and detoxifies toxins so the body can safely pass them to the kidneys or the large intestine.
Cirrhosis is basically the liver cells getting injured. Trauma can injure the liver, such as a knife stab or heavy impact, but it can recover relatively easily given the right treatment. Liver cirrhosis happens when the constant influx of toxins in the body injure the liver little by little. In order to keep damage from spreading, the body scars over the damage, just like a wound. If this happens long enough, the entire liver could be scarred to a point where it can’t function anymore.
In some cases, liver cirrhosis is preceded by several other liver diseases like fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis. Though on some individuals, liver cirrhosis happens without any prior diseases.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
Since cirrhosis impairs liver function, a majority of the symptoms are due to increased body toxicity and the body’s inability to clot blood. There’s also a plethora of other symptoms caused by malnutrition, due to the body’s impaired ability to process nutrients. The general symptoms are the following:
- Jaundice (Yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Weight loss (Due to metabolic issues)
- General skin itchiness
- Shortness of breath
- Diminished stamina
- Spider-shaped artery formation under the skin
- Nose Bleeds
- Slow wound healing
- Reddening of the palms
- Swelling of the legs
- Smaller testicles
- Excess breast tissue in men
- Lack of alertness and confusion
Treatment for Cirrhosis
There is no cure when cirrhosis occurs. It might be lessened during the early stages by removing the affected areas, but recovery is slow as the liver attempts to regenerate. The treatments to slow or stop further damage are the following:
- Complete Alcohol Rehabilitation
- Intravenous Antibiotics
- Hemodialysis to prevent or treat following kidney failure
- Controlled diet of lactulose and low protein
- Nitrates and beta blockers to lower hypertension
- Liver Transplant (only as a last resort)
Cirrhosis will eventually lead to complete liver failure. Either stop drinking alcohol or drink in complete moderation.