What is Cirrhosis of the Liver?

The liver is the largest internal organ you have and plays a vital role in your overall health. It helps keep your blood free of pathogens, contributes to your immune response, and breaks down nutrients such as fats and fat-soluble vitamins. You need a functioning liver in order to live.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition marked by the formation of scar tissue within the liver. As the scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, blood flow becomes blocked and prevents the liver from functioning properly. In the United States, cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death by disease.

From 2000 to 2015, death rates for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the United States increased 31% among persons aged 45-64 years, according to www.cdc.gov. Cirrhosis of the liver is a very serious condition.  To receive treatment from one of the leading gastroenterologists in Los Angeles, contact us to schedule your appointment with Dr. Tabib today.

Causes of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis may be the result of many conditions. In the United States, chronic alcoholism and hepatitis C are the most common culprits.

Alcoholic Liver Disease: Chronic, long-term alcoholism is the first thing most people think of when they hear cirrhosis of the liver. It takes a long time to develop, usually after a decade or more of heavy drinking. However, the amount of alcohol that causes this condition can vary greatly from person to person. The liver becomes damaged when alcohol blocks the normal breakdown of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, or so most doctors postulate.

Chronic Hepatitis (B, C, and D): Hepatitis is probably the leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver worldwide. In the United States, hepatitis C and alcoholic liver disease are the top two causes. hepatitis B and hepatitis D are less common in the U.S., although they have the same effect as hepatitis C. Viral infection of the liver causes inflammation and low grade damage over the long term, eventually resulting in cirrhosis. Hepatitis D only affects those who already have hepatitis B.

Autoimmune Hepatitis: When your immune system attacks your own liver, it can lead to inflammation, damage, scarring, and cirrhosis.

Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH): This is a form of hepatitis that appears to accompany diabetes, protein malnutrition, obesity, coronary artery disease, and treatment with corticosteroid medications.It causes fat buildup in the liver and, eventually,the formation of scar tissue.

Inherited Diseases: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, galactosemia, and glycogen storage diseases are inherited conditions that can cause cirrhosis. They interfere with the way the liver produces, processes, and stores proteins, enzymes, metals, and other substances that are essential to proper bodily function.

Blocked Bile Ducts: Damage to the bile ducts can cause them to become blocked. When bile backs up in the liver, it begins to damage the surrounding tissue. It is often a congenital defect found in infants. In adults, the bile ducts usually become blocked as a result of secondary biliary cirrhosis. In patients who undergo gallbladder surgery, this condition is sometimes caused by inadvertent damage to the ducts during surgery.

Drugs, Toxins, and Infections: Prescription drugs, the parasitic infection schistosomiasis,environmental toxins, and repeated bouts of heart failure with liver congestion can all lead to cirrhosis.
If you are currently suffering from any of these conditions, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tabib today.

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

During the early stages of the disease, many people are asymptomatic. As the scar tissue builds up in the liver, the normal functions begin to fail, leading to:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Exhaustion
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Some people also develop spider-like blood vessels (spider angiomas) on the skin. Short of more serious complications, these are often the first sign of the disease.

Complications of Cirrhosis

Loss of liver function affects the body in many ways. Some of the most common complications include:

  • Jaundice (Yellowing of the Skin and Eyes)
  • Gallstones
  • Edema/Ascites (Water Accumulation in the Legs/Abdomen)
  • Bruising/Bleeding More Easily
  • Itching
  • Sensitivity to Medication
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Portal Hypertension
  • Enlarged Blood Vessels (Varices)
  • Insulin Resistance / Type 2 Diabetes
  • Liver Cancer

Pregnant women may experience some of the symptoms of appendicitis – including abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea – even though they don’t have it. Conversely, many pregnant women who have appendicitis fail to exhibit the common symptoms. Women in their third trimester are at a higher risk.

Very young patients often have trouble communicating their symptoms to parents and physicians. And without much of a medical history, doctors often have little to go on when identifying appendicitis. Older patients often exhibit less severe symptoms than others. They may not be aware that there is anything wrong until their appendices are on the verge of rupturing.

Diagnosis of Cirrhosis

Dr. Tabib may perform a number of tests to determine whether or not you have cirrhosis of the liver. If you have exhibited any symptoms of this disease, contact us to schedule an appointment with him today.

A physical examination is usually the first course of action. If your liver feels enlarged or harder than usual, Dr. Tabib will most likely order blood tests to screen for cirrhosis. Diagnostic machines designed to capture images of soft tissues are also helpful. This may include a CAT scan, MRI, ultrasound, or radioisotope testing.

If cirrhosis is suspected, a tissue sample will usually need to be taken to confirm. A biopsy will be taken and observed under a microscope to detect the buildup of scar tissue.

Treatment for Cirrhosis Los Angeles

There is no cure for cirrhosis of the liver, but the effects can be delayed. In most cases, addressing the underlying cause of the cirrhosis can usually delay progression. If the cause is alcoholism, for instance, quitting drinking will usually prevent further complications. If the cause is hepatitis, treating the virus with medication is usually effective.Abstaining from alcohol, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in light exercise on a regular basis are usually good for stopping or delaying the effects of cirrhosis, regardless of the cause.

Treatment also includes addressing any complications that accompany cirrhosis. Diuretics and a low-sodium diet are good for reducing water retention, for instance. The key is to control the cirrhosis and its side effects.

When complications cannot be controlled or when the extent of the damage causes liver failure, a liver transplant is necessary. The diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy donor liver. Thanks to advances in transplantation techniques, the survival rate for this procedure is about 80 to 90 percent.

Today, gastroenterology conditions can be treated effectively. We provide everyone a personalized gastroenterology treatment plan to meet your unique needs and improve your quality of life. Contact our gastroenterology and hepatology center to schedule a consolation with Los Angeles’ preferred Gastroenterologist– Dr. Tabib.

Dr. Tabib’s completed his postgraduate fellowship, residency, and internships at the UCLA/Cedar-Sinai Medical Center.

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Siamak Tabib, M.D., Inc.
8631 W 3rd St Suite 1015E,
Los Angeles, CA 90048

(310) 683-4911

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