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What is Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is a late-stage liver disease that results in scarring of the liver from different types of liver diseases and conditions. When the liver is damaged from alcohol consumption or disease, it tries to repair itself, during which scar tissue is formed. When too much scar tissue exists in the liver, it makes it difficult for it to function properly. 

Cirrhosis can have no signs or symptoms until liver damage is severe. When symptoms do occur, they may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles or feet
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)    
  • Weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of sex drive or premature menopause

How is Cirrhosis Diagnosed?

Early-stage cirrhosis often does not have any symptoms and is usually detected through routine blood testing. However, if you are experiencing symptoms or your doctor believes you may have cirrhosis, he or she may recommend a series of lab tests, imaging tests such as MRI or CT and ultrasound or a liver biopsy to properly diagnose your condition.

Overall, there are different classifications for chronic liver disease which include compensated cirrhosis and decompensated cirrhosis. If you have compensated cirrhosis that means you are not yet experiencing symptoms but your lab work or imaging tests may be abnormal. Decompensated cirrhosis is when the condition has worsened and noticeable symptoms are present. Diagnosis is based on your health history and test findings. Individuals with decompensated cirrhosis are often admitted to the hospital for care.

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Cirrhosis Treatment Options

Unfortunately, cirrhosis cannot be reversed. If later-stage liver disease has been diagnosed, the damage that has been done to the liver is permanent.  However, depending on the cause of your cirrhosis, there may be some steps you can take to prevent it from worsening. These include:

  • Stopping alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding medications that put stress on the liver
  • Eating a healthy, low-fat diet
  • Treating chronic hepatitis if present
  • Treating diseases that damage or block the bile ducts, if necessary

Cirrhosis can also lead to certain complications, some of which can be treated. These complications and their treatment plans may include:

Portal Hypertension

This condition causes elevated pressure in the portal vein system, which leads to the liver. Treatment may include beta-blockers or nitrates to lower blood pressure, cutting off the blood flow through the varices to stop further bleeding, draining excess fluid from the abdomen or prescribing lactulose to absorb blood toxins that cause confusion or other mental changes.

Bacterial Peritonitis

This is an infection of abdominal fluid, called ascites. Treatment involves antibiotics and the infusion of a protein called albumin.

Liver Cancer

Treatment for liver cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer, as well as other factors. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Cirrhosis or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!

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