Cirrhosis of the Liver


Cirrhosis of the liver is the seventh leading cause of death by disease. About 25,000 people die from cirrhosis each year. Cirrhosis has many causes. When chronic diseases cause the liver to become permanently injured and scarred, the condition is called cirrhosis. The scar tissue that forms in cirrhosis harms the structure of the liver, blocking the flow of blood through the organ. The loss of normal liver tissue slows the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs, and toxins by the liver. Also slowed is production of proteins and other substances made by the liver. A home liver test will indicate how well the liver is functioning.

Our largest organ, the liver works to keep us healthy, converting food into substances needed for life and growth, and storing glycogen, amino acids, protein, and fat. It also produces the enzymes and bile that help digest food, neutralizes toxins in our blood, and produces immune agents to control infection.

People with cirrhosis often have few symptoms at first. The two major problems that eventually cause symptoms are loss of functioning liver cells and distortion of the liver caused by scarring. The person may experience fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion. Loss of appetite is usual, often with nausea and weight loss.

In the later stages of cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice (yellow skin) may occur, caused by the buildup of bile pigment that is passed by the liver into the intestines. Some people with cirrhosis experience intense itching due to bile products that are deposited in the skin. Gallstones often form in persons with cirrhosis because not enough bile reaches the gallbladder.

Liver damage is permanent. Treatment of cirrhosis is aimed at stopping or delaying its progress, minimizing the damage to liver cells, and reducing complications. In alcoholic cirrhosis, for instance, the person must stop drinking alcohol to halt progression of the disease. If a person has hepatitis, the doctor may administer steroids or antiviral drugs to reduce liver cell injury.

Consult with a physician is recommended. Ask your health care provider about multi-vitamins and other supplements. Avoid aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Elimination of saturated fat in the diet with Olive Oil taken in small quantities during the day is recommended to improve assimilations and eliminations through the alimentary canal and help digestion. Stopping alcohol consumption and using the Mediterranean diet food pyramid, will slow the progression of cirrhosis.

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