Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. The end stage of chronic liver disease is often characterised by cirrhosis. The liver diseases that can lead to cirrhosis include: chronic viral hepatitis, alcohol, non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, other toxins, metabolic disorders and autoimmune disorders.
Limitations in detoxification, digestive, and coagulation processes are expected in cirrhosis. Scarring of the liver means that blood can no longer flow freely through the liver. as a result, it accumulates, which can lead to a build-up of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), brain disorders, gastrointestinal bleeding, organ failure and liver cancer.
It takes anywhere from a few years to several decades for cirrhosis to develop.
Even when cirrhosis enters the end stage, it does not always mean that symptoms are present. Cirrhosis patients are often weaker and more prone to infections. The skin can change, resulting in spider naevus or reddened palms. If cirrhosis progresses, there may also be complications such as a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, bleeding from varicose veins in the stomach or esophagus (fundus variceal or esophageal variceal bleeding), and hepatic encephalopathy, which is characterised by confusion and can lead to coma.
Prevention is better than cure. Avoiding alcohol completely, a healthy lifestyle (maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity) and a preventative hepatitis B vaccine are measures that can be taken. If a liver disease is suspected, early diagnosis by a liver specialist can prevent the development of cirrhosis. This is because, assuming a liver disease is present, there is the possibility of effective treatment before the liver is severely damaged.
If the cause of the cirrhosis is known, action can be taken against the cause, which can reverse the liver damage to some extent. That is, for example, the case with hepatitis C which can be cured with medicines. Unfortunately, the same cures are not available for other liver diseases, so efforts are aimed at stopping or slowing liver damage. At present, there is no cure for cirrhosis. However, the complications can be treated. A liver transplant can be life-saving.