Located just below the diaphragm, the liver, one of the largest organs in our body, is involved in a number of metabolic processes such as the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, as well as the metabolism of bilirubin, hormones, and bile acids. It is an organ that is responsible for important functions such as detoxification and sterilization. As the liver is in charge of important functions related to metabolism, various clinical problems occur when the function of the liver is deteriorated. Liver cirrhosis is one of the liver diseases caused by problems with the intestine. It refers to a chronic disease in which the liver becomes fibrous due to inflammation, and the liver becomes hard like a stone and cannot perform its original function properly.
The main cause of cirrhosis is inflammation and chronic liver damage. It is known that the cause of liver damage is chronic hepatitis B or C, excessive drinking, obesity, and the use of liver toxic substances. In particular, it is reported that hepatitis B virus is the most common cause of liver cirrhosis patients in Korea (70~80%), and it is also reported that hepatitis C virus and alcoholic liver cirrhosis are caused by hepatitis C virus. In addition, it has been known that liver cirrhosis can also be caused by liver disease caused by autoimmune diseases and hemochromatosis caused by excessive iron deposition and metabolic disorders. Now, let’s learn more about the main symptoms that can appear when cirrhosis occurs, and various information related to treatment and prevention.
The main symptoms of liver cirrhosis
Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the early stage, there may be asymptomatic symptoms that do not show any symptoms, and then abnormal symptoms such as chronic fatigue, general weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, bloating, indigestion, and weight loss occur. And when the symptoms become more severe, arachnoid hemangioma on the skin and erythema of the palms can occur due to abnormal metabolism of hormones. And as the spleen grows, it can be felt in the left side of the stomach, and the liver cannot remove bilirubin, which can cause jaundice, which causes the eyes and skin to turn yellow.
Liver cirrhosis, once developed, continues to progress in a significant number of patients, leading to a gradual decline in liver function. In this process, various complications such as portal hypertension and varicose bleeding can occur, and symptoms such as ascites in which fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity, edema of the lower extremities in both legs, and massive hematemesis due to rupture of esophageal varices can occur. In addition, hepatic encephalopathy, which is caused by intestinal toxins acting as a neurotransmitter and affecting the cerebral nerves, may occur due to continued deterioration of liver function and portal hypertension, and the risk of liver cancer also increases.
For the treatment and prevention of liver cirrhosis, early diagnosis and treatment through regular check-ups is important. In particular, chronic hepatitis or fatty liver disease is classified as a high-risk group for cirrhosis, so it is important to have regular checkups for early detection. And since it is known that liver cirrhosis can be prevented by removing risk factors, improving various lifestyle habits that aggravate symptoms is as important as treatment.
Cirrhosis Treatment and Prevention
1. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment
Liver cirrhosis is diagnosed accurately by performing physical examination to check spider hemangioma, palmar erythema, muscular atrophy, and imaging tests such as liver function test using blood, biopsy, abdominal ultrasound, and abdominal CT. And since hepatitis B and hepatitis C are causative diseases that account for a large proportion of the causes of liver cirrhosis, if the infection is caused by the virus, treatment is carried out using drugs such as antiviral drugs. And if ascites occurs, diuretics are used to control the symptoms, and if the symptoms do not improve with this method, the treatment procedure is to repeatedly extract ascites. In case of severe liver cirrhosis, treatment is carried out through liver transplantation. In addition, since cirrhosis itself is a high risk factor for liver cancer, it is important to conduct regular monitoring tests for liver cancer when diagnosed with cirrhosis.
2. Excessive drinking habits
Alcohol is converted into substances such as acetaldehyde in the liver during the process of absorption into the body, causing inflammation and damage to liver tissue. The damaged liver gradually loses its ability to break down fatty acids, leading to the accumulation of fat in the liver and fibrosis in which the liver hardens. Therefore, excessive alcohol consumption threatens the liver and causes direct liver damage, which is a major cause of liver cirrhosis.
3. Healthy Eating
Since liver cirrhosis tends to be deficient in vitamins, an antioxidant that plays an essential role in the body, it is important to eat a balanced diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains rich in various vitamins. In particular, it is important to limit salt intake to 5 g or less per day when you have swelling or ascites, as eating salty foods containing too much salt can cause ascites and worsen symptoms. Also, since drugs, health functional foods, and herbal medicines can affect liver function, it is recommended to decide whether to take them after consulting with a specialist.
In addition, since hepatitis B virus infection accounts for a large proportion of liver cirrhosis, it is an important preventive and management habit to inoculate with hepatitis B vaccine and pay special attention not to be infected with hepatitis C at the same time.