What is liver cirrhosis?
Liver cirrhosis is a condition where the surface of the liver is knobley instead of shiny and smooth. With end stage cirrhosis of the liver patients develop a condition (portal hypertension) where the blood, which normally flows from the veins of the bowels to the liver, doesn’t reach the liver creating an increase in pressure in that system.
Liver cirrhosis is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world right after cardiovascular disease and cancer. Among people aged 45- to 65-years old it is the third leading cause of death. It can develop from alcohol abuse, chronic scarring from infectious hepatitis, obesity, or chronic biliary obstruction (eg. gall stones).
What are the signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis?
Many patients are asymptomatic for several years. The first symptoms may be weight loss, lack of appetite, nausea and weakness. In patients with biliary obstruction there often is a chronic skin itch, which leads to an intractable and very annoying itching leaving scratch marks all over the body. Jaundice from backed-up bile salts can be seen in the skin in more advanced cases.
With cirrhosis based on chronic alcohol abuse there may be signs of malnutrition with wasted muscles and symptoms from chronic pancreatic insufficiency. Portal hypertension is common in these patients and often leads to death from a sudden massive bleed.
How is liver cirrhosis treated?
The gastroenterologist will follow these patients and symptomatically treat the various symptoms until the stage, beyond which the complication rate becomes unacceptable and a liver transplant is suggested. The transplantation team subjects the potential liver transplant recipient to screening tests in order to establish the suitability of the person. Transplantation is not for everyone nor is it an instant cure. Following the procedure, the patient has to be available for regular follow-up visits with occasional liver biopsies to monitor immune rejection and treat with medication if required.
Proper nutrition, if this was a problem, needs to be reestablished.
There is also an FDA-approved non-drug method available, IceWave patches from Lifewave, which will control pain.