Liver Cirrhosis is a dangerous, sometimes deadly, disease caused by various risk factors. According to the American College of Gastroenterology liver cirrhosis affects approximately 5.5 million people in the United States, causing 26,000 deaths each year. It is among the top ten killers of adults age 25-64.
What is Cirrhosis?
Chronic liver injury eventually causes scarring, leaving the liver unable to function normally. The scarring is called cirrhosis. Since the liver filters our blood, removes toxins from our system and extracts nutrition from our digestive tract, this complex organ is critical to our good health.
The most common cause of liver cirrhosis in the U.S. is excessive alcohol consumption and Hepatitis. This may be why new studies suggest binge drinking among young people and Hepatitis (possibly undiagnosed and untreated) in baby boomers may be contributing factors to the upswing in liver disease cases in recent years. Fatty liver disease, viruses, autoimmune disease and bile duct disorders are among several other possible causes.
How Do I Know Whether I Have Cirrhosis?
Symptoms aren’t always noticeable at first. However as liver cirrhosis progresses, initial symptoms could include fatigue and itching. Patients may also experience swelling, usually in the legs, an abnormal amount of fluid retention in the abdomen, digestive tract bleeding, jaundice (yellowing of the white of the eyes and skin), and possible damage to the brain due to the insufficient filtering of waste from the blood. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
How Can I Reduce My Risk?
Alcohol use is a common factor in cirrhosis cases. Women consuming more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day or men consuming 2-3 over a long period of time significantly increase their risk of developing cirrhosis. Some people can develop cirrhosis with less than this amount of alcohol consumption.
Obesity and Diabetes are significant risk factors that cause liver injury whether alcohol is involved or not. Obesity is predicted to become the leading cause of cirrhosis as vaccines and awareness help the number of viral hepatitis cases dwindle.
Get Vaccinated! The Hepatitis A&B vaccination is easy to get and is very effective. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, but you can reduce or eliminate the risk by avoiding intravenous drug use, unprotected sexual contact and taking appropriate precautions when handling blood products.
If You Suspect You Have Liver Disease
See your doctor! Treatments are available for liver disease. Once properly screened and diagnosed, patients with liver disease, with the help of their gastroenterologist or hepatologist, may be able to improve their liver function and delay further decline.
There are various treatments available depending on your particular condition, the type and severity of the liver disease, and how you respond to treatments.
This is a very brief overview of how liver cirrhosis may affect an individual. The first step toward better health is seeing a gastroenterologist. They will determine the details of your digestive health and tell you how to proceed. Our doctors at Granite Peaks specialize in this type of disease. Reach out and get the help you need to work toward better liver function and better health.