Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition characterized by the late-stage scarring of the liver; the phenomenon can be caused by a number of other liver-related diseases and conditions, including but not limited to autoimmune hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, chronic alcohol abuse, chronic viral hepatitis, and even certain medications, such as isoniazid and methotrexate.
Cirrhosis is quite common: approximately 1 in 400 American adults have the condition.
There are a number of risk factors that could increase your likelihood of developing cirrhosis, including being obese, having viral hepatitis, and the overconsumption of alcohol.
The condition could present with a variety of symptoms that could be the result of other illnesses, such as nausea, appetite loss, fatigue, itchy skin, jaundice, or even a loss of sex drive.
Another complication that may come with cirrhosis is ascites, or the accumulation of fluid in your abdominal cavity. The phenomenon generally develops once the liver is beginning to fail, and is common in individuals dealing with cirrhosis. While cirrhosis is the most common cause of ascites, other conditions like heart or kidney failure, cancer, and infection could lead to ascites as well.
Ascites are directly caused by a combination of decreased liver function caused by scarring in the liver and portal hypertension (increased tension in the veins that run through the liver).
Most individuals who develop ascites will have symptoms such as rapid weight gain and abdominal distension. Others also notice their ankles swelling and a shortness of breath due to fluid accumulating around their lungs. There are a number of other symptoms that could present, including:
- Infection, aka spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). This usually in turn leads to fever, nausea, tenderness, or abdominal pain as well and could lead to kidney failure or an infected bloodstream if not diagnosed and treated quickly.
- Fluid accumulation in the chest, or hepatic hydrothorax. This could lead to shortness of breath with exertion or even at rest.
- Hernias in the groin or around the belly button, which could lead to abdominal discomfort.
Luckily, if cirrhosis is caught early and its origins are treated, further damage may be prevented and, in rare cases, perhaps even overturned. An Ezra abdominal, torso, or full-body scan could pick up cirrhosis in the liver. You can learn more about our pricing plans here.