Many are accustomed to think that cirrhosis of the liver can only provoke alcoholism or severe infectious diseases of the organ, such as chronic hepatitis B or C. Meanwhile, an unhealthy lifestyle and the use of excessively dense, fatty and high-calorie foods play a significant role in the genesis of liver damage. obesity of the liver – the accumulation of droplets of fat in its cells, which disrupts its normal functioning.
Fatty hepatosis: are dietary fats to blame?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis. With such a lesion, fatty deposits are formed in the liver tissue. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the most serious form of liver disease. With it, the accumulation of fat in the liver is accompanied by inflammation and damage to hepatocytes .
Although data from researchers are very different, it is believed that up to 30% of adult patients have NAFLD. Risk factors for these conditions include obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides, that is, similar to the risk factors for heart attacks.
The presence of NAFLD or NASH is a risk factor for the development of such a form of liver cancer as hepatocellular carcinoma, as well as cirrhosis. Among people diagnosed with NAFLD, liver cirrhosis is several times more common than cancer, and both diseases have extremely poor prognosis.
Weight loss is recommended for the treatment of both forms of pathology. Losing weight can reduce the amount of fat in the liver, as well as inflammation and fibrosis. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet can help prevent NAFLD or NASH, as well as cirrhosis of the liver.
Alcoholism and cirrhosis
Scientists note that although alcoholism is a provocateur of cirrhosis in a significant proportion of patients with various liver diseases, its formation threatens far from most people with alcoholism. When assumptions are made about the cause of cirrhosis, believing that it is primarily alcoholism, doctors say that this is an unfair stigma for a large number of patients who drink in moderation and have liver problems for other reasons.
Another common misconception is that cirrhosis in alcoholism is always irreversible. This is cause for concern, but not a disaster for people diagnosed with cirrhosis. The prognosis, of course, depends on whether a person gives up bad habits and removes risk factors from his life or not.
Hepatitis and the risk of provoking cirrhosis
A serious problem for doctors is hepatitis – inflammation of the liver of any genesis, including viral origin, NASH and alcohol intake. Among the viruses, the most dangerous are those that provoke hepatitis B or C. Pathogens are transmitted through blood, semen or other body fluids. If chronic hepatitis develops , it can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
The latest advances in world medicine are helping to improve the treatment outcomes for people with hepatitis. Adequate treatment for hepatitis means that fewer people with an infectious disease end up developing complications and cirrhosis of the liver.
The danger is that patients with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. It is estimated that about half of those infected with the hepatitis C virus are unaware of their illness. Injection drug use is a leading cause of hepatitis C. Elderly adults may have been infected with the virus through blood transfusions or during medical procedures that were performed before effective blood screening and health precautions were taken.
Liver disease and children
Although rare, genetic pathologies such as Wilson’s disease, biliary atresia and autoimmune hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis in children. As the child becomes obese, NAFLD or NASH becomes more common in children. Almost 10% of clinically obese children aged 2-19 years have NAFLD.
Other types of cirrhosis
The condition formerly called primary biliary cirrhosis is now known as primary biliary cholangitis. It is considered an autoimmune disease in which the bile ducts in the liver are slowly destroyed. Primary biliary cholangitis, which can be caused by environmental and genetic factors, is more likely in people with a family history of the disease. Medications can slow the progression of the disease to cirrhosis.
Also dangerous is primary sclerosing cholangitis, which includes fibrosis of the bile ducts inside and outside the liver.
How is cirrhosis of the liver treated?
There is no specific therapy for cirrhosis. Specialists eliminate the causes of cirrhosis whenever possible. Prevention of further fibrosis of the liver tissue is the main goal of therapy. People with cirrhosis are advised to stop drinking alcohol. In cases where alcoholism is a problem, a treatment program may be recommended.
In the presence of NAFLD or NASH, weight loss can help prevent further liver damage, along with exercise, diabetes management, and maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. A low sodium diet combined with medication is used to lower blood pressure and, in severe cases, to reduce ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen). Sometimes shunting of the hepatic vein helps with a decrease in blood pressure in the hepatic vessels.
Prevention of varicose veins in the abdomen and infections, bleeding from dilated veins is necessary. If the liver completely stops functioning, organ transplantation is the only option.
Scientists who are developing drugs for the treatment of NAFLD or NASH, as well as cirrhosis, say that there are hopes that drugs will soon appear that can significantly improve liver health and regeneration of its tissues, reduce fibrosis, even in patients whose liver is significantly damaged from for viral hepatitis.