Health Care

What is Cirrhosis?

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As your body’s second largest organ, your liver profoundly impacts your whole health. It carries out many essential functions, such as converting nutrition into energy, making bile needed for digestion and removing harmful substances from your blood. An unhealthy liver puts a strain on the entire body.

“Cirrhosis happens when healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue,” explains Torfay Roman, MD, transplant hepatologist at AdventHealth Orlando. “As the disease progresses and more scar tissue forms, it becomes difficult for your liver to perform its usual functions, and you may experience symptoms.”

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

People with cirrhosis have varying signs and symptoms, depending on how far their condition has progressed. In the early stages of cirrhosis, you may not notice any symptoms, but symptoms will become more apparent as your liver function levels decline.

Possible early signs of cirrhosis may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling generally unwell, weakness
  • Muscle loss
  • Spider angiomas (visible blood vessels that look like spiders, not to be confused with spider veins)

More severe symptoms of advanced cirrhosis to be aware of include:

  • Abdominal swelling with fluid
  • Confusion
  • Disruptions to your menstrual cycle
  • Easy bleeding and bruising
  • Edema
  • Jaundice
  • Tea-colored urine and light-colored bowel movements
  • Unexplained weight loss

Causes of Cirrhosis

Any disease that causes long-term liver inflammation can lead to cirrhosis, including excess alcohol use, chronic viral infections, genetic disease and fatty liver disease.

“If you are diagnosed with cirrhosis, it is important to establish a relationship with a liver specialist to optimize your disease and closely monitor your progress,” says Dr. Roman. “Your doctor will keep a close eye on your disease with regular clinic visits, blood work and imaging.”

Your Life After Diagnosis

Managing your cirrhosis will depend on the cause behind your disease. For example, if your liver disease is alcohol-related, treatment will require eliminating alcohol and other toxic substances. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) requires managing lifestyle factors like weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Some people may require medications to manage their liver disease. A consistent, nutritional diet and achieving a healthy weight are recommended for anyone with any type of liver disease. Your doctor may talk to you about a liver transplant if your liver disease becomes more severe.

Your Whole Health Matters

If you’re experiencing symptoms of cirrhosis, it’s important to tell your doctor. And if you need specialized help, our liver specialists can help you manage your condition and live a full life. We’re here for your whole-health needs through every age and stage.

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