Liver cirrhosis symptoms unfortunately do not appear until the disease is quite progressed. Early symptoms may include weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, and jaundice.
Liver cirrhosis is a scarring of the liver resulting from the replacement of normal, healthy liver tissue with non-functional, unspecialized tissue.
This replacement tissue no longer has the ability to perform the regular functions needed by the liver and may also hinder the flow of blood through the portal vein that supplies the liver.
The liver is a very resilient organ and can function relatively well for a prolonged period of time while damage is accumulating within its tissues.
Cirrhosis can occur due to many different sources of damage to liver tissue. The most common cause in North America is chronic alcohol abuse.
Liver cirrhosis symptoms:
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- skin itchiness
- body hair loss
- palms of hands flushed (red)
- testicular shrinkage
- spider-like veins in the skin
- yellow skin nodules (common near eyelids)
- breast enlargement in males
- vomiting of blood
- swelling of salivary glands in the cheeks
- abdominal swelling
- fingers begin to curl upwards
Diagnosis is typically through physical examination and observation of symptoms. Identification of risk factors known to damage the liver is also important. Liver function testing and tissue biopsy can be used to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure or therapeutic treatment for cirrhosis. The cause of liver damage should immediately be stopped, if possible (i.e. alcohol abuse), to prevent further scarring and function loss.
However, once liver tissue is damaged and scarred the effect is not reversible. Secondary complications may be treated to relieve symptoms.
Liver transplantation can be performed in individuals with advanced stages of cirrhosis and who will likely not continue high risk activities for developing repeated liver cirrhosis.
Prevention is obviously through avoidance of risk factors known to promote the incidence of cirrhosis.