The liver is one of the largest glands in the system and it carries out multiple complex functions. These include helping in digestion of fat, synthesis of important proteins, regulating the blood clotting system, removal of toxic waste and managing blood glucose level.
The average age of patient who develops cirrhosis may be between the age group of 40-45 years, however it is seen that many younger patients are now developing liver disease due to alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
A majority of young working professionals, who are not bound by working hours, frequently indulge in alcohol, regularly indulge in fast food and have no time to exercise may develop a condition called ‘fatty liver’ which may progress to cirrhosis.
An individual with liver cirrhosis might have very few or no symptoms and signs of the disease. Some of the common signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowing of the skin (Jaundice)
- Fatigue and weakness
- Easy bruising
- Fluid accumulation in abdomen (Ascites)
- Swelling in the legs
- Loss of muscle mass
There are a number of conditions and diseases that can damage the liver at large, leading to cirrhosis. Following are the common causes:
- Excessive consumption of alcohol regularly/daily basis
- Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) usually associated with obesity and diabetes
- Chronic viral hepatitis B and C
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Inherited disorders (genetic)
Stages of liver cirrhosis:
Cirrhosis is a stage where the liver is already damaged. The two stages involved in Liver Cirrhosis are:
Stage 1: Compensated Cirrhosis – Here the damage caused to the liver can be compensated through healthy Liver cells, which means these cells are enough to improve the condition of the damaged cells without any complications. Patient may not have any symptom or signs.
Stage 2: Decompensated Cirrhosis – This is a stage when cirrhotic liver starts causing problem like, fluid accumulation in legs and abdomen, jaundice, cancer in liver, blood vomiting, confusion . Average survival once patient develops decompensated liver cirrhosis is 1.5 years.
To avoid this deadly disease, there are some important precautions which should be taken.
- Avoid alcohol
- Ensure you have a balanced diet, getting appropriate nutrition through grains, proteins, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. Avoid being overweight.
- Avoiding unprotected sex or sharing needles and other precautions to avoid coming in contact with blood and body fluid. Blood and blood products may be contaminated with HBV and HCV virus.
- Immunise yourself against HBV and HAV virus.
The author is a senior Consultant of Head Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.