Liver cirrhosis is a chronic disease of the most important large organ of our body, characterized by the replacement of the hepatic tissue with coarse connective tissue. This process is irreversible and leads to serious health problems and even death.
The liver performs a number of important functions in the human body:
- This is the so-called “filter” – the liver neutralizes substances foreign to the body – xenobiotics. These substances include various toxins, poisons, allergens, etc.
- It removes from the body an excess amount of hormones, vitamins, metabolic products that can be potentially harmful to the body.
- Participates in the process of hematopoiesis (formation of blood cells).
- It is a glycogen depot.
- Participates in carbohydrate metabolism.
- Participates in the synthesis of proteins, hormones, vitamins, bile acids.
Chronic progressive liver disease leads to impairment of important functions, which inevitably affects the health of the body as a whole.
Liver cirrhosis is a polyetiological disease. Inflammatory processes mediated by a viral or parasitic infection can lead to the proliferation of connective tissue in the liver; alcohol, toxic drugs, various poisons and chemical compounds adversely affect the liver tissue. Also, cirrhosis can develop against the background of metabolic disorders in the body, congenital forms of liver cirrhosis are rare.
Liver cirrhosis symptoms and prognosis
For a long time, the disease can proceed with minimal symptoms, to which the patient does not pay much attention:
- Slight increase in temperature;
- Inability to eat fatty foods and alcoholic beverages;
- Frequent episodes of bad mood and a tendency to tantrums;
- Decreased performance.
As the disease progresses, the clinical picture of liver cirrhosis becomes more pronounced, and the patient presents with the following complaints:
- heaviness or pain in the right hypochondrium;
- weight loss;
- severe weakness;
- joint pain.
A patient with liver cirrhosis can also change externally:
- vascular “stars” appear on the body,
- the skin of the palms takes on a bright red color ( palmar erythema),
- the amount of hair in the armpits and pubic area may decrease,
- in men, the mammary glands become enlarged (gynecomastia),
- often there is a “jellyfish head” – the expansion and swelling of the veins of the anterior abdominal wall.
The prognosis for this disease is unfavorable. There is no effective treatment that gives full recovery, since the formation of fibrous connective tissue in place of liver cells is an irreversible process.
Alcohol is the enemy of the liver number 1
Alcohol is the liver’s main enemy. Studies show that cirrhosis of the liver develops in about 30% of people who consume alcohol excessively. This happens, on average, 10-20 years after the onset of abuse.
Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on liver cells – hepatocytes , causing their death (necrosis). In place of the dead hepatocytes, fibrous connective tissue subsequently grows.
The combination of alcohol dependence with obesity (especially in women) increases the risk of developing cirrhosis several times. This is due to the fact that obesity can potentiate inflammation in the liver tissue.
Viruses in the etiology of liver cirrhosis: viral hepatitis B and C
In the occurrence of cirrhosis of the liver, viruses play an important role. Thus, hepatitis caused by the hepatitis B virus and the hepatitis C virus often develop into cirrhosis of the liver.
The hepatitis virus damages the hepatic cell, causes its death, an inflammatory reaction occurs in the liver tissue, and later, in place of the damaged cells and tissues, connective tissue grows.
And infection with the hepatitis virus in combination with alcohol abuse contributes to the more rapid development of cirrhotic changes in the liver.
Viral hepatitis B is a very common disease (about 2 billion people are infected), as is viral hepatitis C (about 150 million people are infected). The hepatitis C virus in the medical literature is called the “affectionate killer”, since the disease often proceeds in a latent form, without obvious clinical signs.
It happens that a person becomes infected with two types of virus at the same time – both B and C. In such cases, cirrhosis of the liver develops much earlier.
Medicines that alter the structure of the liver
Medicines that have a detrimental effect on liver tissue are called hepatotoxic . The so-called “medicinal cirrhosis of the liver” develops in people who have to take drugs toxic to the liver for a long time.
The list of these medicines is huge. Of the simplest and most common drugs, this includes aspirin, paracetamol, tetracycline, vitamin A.
This suggests that you need to take medications only under the supervision of a doctor, without self-diagnosis and self-medication. However, in the case of medicinal cirrhosis, it is not always the patient’s fault. There are a number of diseases when the appointment of hepatotoxic drugs is a necessary measure. So, for example, in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, the patient is prescribed antibiotics for a long time . As a result of such treatment, the patient is cured of tuberculosis, but as a “side effect” he may develop cirrhosis of the liver. To cure a severe infection, you have to sacrifice another organ.
Metabolic disorders as a cause of liver cirrhosis
Metabolic disorders that develop in the body and are part of the so-called “metabolic syndrome” – can also contribute to the development of liver cirrhosis. This syndrome is based on the development of tissue resistance (insensitivity) to insulin, as a result of which visceral obesity develops, carbohydrate and fat metabolism changes.
In particular, in the liver with metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty disease develops – hepatocytes accumulate fat in large quantities, the liver cell from normal turns into “obese”. Inflammation in such an altered liver leads to the development of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (” steato -” – fat, “hepatitis” – inflammation of the liver), which, in turn, is one of the most severe forms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to liver cirrhosis.
Circulatory disorders – congestive cirrhosis of the liver
With impaired circulation in the portal vein system (which occurs with heart failure), congestive cirrhosis of the liver develops. The mechanism of its development is quite simple:
- venous overflow of the liver with blood;
- oxygen starvation (hypoxia) of hepatocytes ;
- atrophy and necrosis of hepatocytes ;
- overgrowth of rough connective tissue at the site of dead hepatocytes .
To stop the progression of congestive cirrhosis is possible only by compensating for heart failure.
Liver cirrhosis is a slowly progressive disease that negatively affects quality of life. Moreover, in the absence of adequate therapy, cirrhosis can be fatal. The most common causes of death are:
- bleeding from dilated veins of the esophagus and cardiac part of the stomach;
- degeneration into cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma);
- development of hepatic coma.