All About Cirrhosis Symptoms And Warning Signs
The liver is an important organ of the body, although it is not always one that we pay a great deal of attention to. Weighing in at three pounds, the liver is the largest solid organ within the human body, and it is responsible for performing a wide range of different functions, including manufacturing the blood proteins responsible for oxygen transportation, immune system function, and clotting, and storing any excess nutrients to be returned to the blood stream. The liver also creates bile to help with the digestion of food, and assists the body in storing sugar in the form of glycogen. What's more, it is useful for breaking down saturated fats and ridding the body of harmful substances that can get caught up in the bloodstream, such as alcohol and drugs.
Cirrhosis is a disease that progresses slowly over time. During cirrhosis, healthy liver tissue is gradually replaced with scar tissue, which prevents the liver from functioning as it should. This scar tissue blocks the flow of blood and slows the progression of nutrients, as well as the liver's ability to get rid of toxins, drugs and hormones. Information from the National Institutes of Health suggests that cirrhosis is the 12th most common cause of disease-based death.
What Causes Cirrhosis?
Fatty live, hepatitis C, and alcohol abuse are some of the most common causes of cirrhosis in the liver throughout the United States, but it's important to note that anything that may damage the liver can lead to cirrhosis. Although it is less likely, sometimes cirrhosis can be caused by unhealthy reactions to prescription drugs, parasitic infections, and even exposure to environmental toxins.
In general, the majority of people who drink large amounts of alcohol will end up damaging their liver in some way, but not all of these people will end up with cirrhosis. Women who are heavy drinkers are usually at higher risk than men.
The Cirrhosis Symptoms and Signs to Watch For:
It's important to note that the different symptoms involved with cirrhosis can vary with each stage of the illness. For example, during the initial stages of the illness, there may not be any symptoms at all. Some of the most common cirrhosis symptoms and signs that appear when the disease starts to worsen include:
- Loss of appetite or energy
- Sudden weight fluctuations
- Bruises and yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Itchy skin and swelling around the abdomen and ankles
- Personality changes, confusion and disorientation
During the later stage of the disease, you may suffer from various cirrhosis symptoms and signs, including vomiting blood or having tarry, black-colored stools. The reason for this is that blood will no longer be able to flow properly throughout the liver, which will cause an increased amount of pressure in the vein that carries blood from the gut into the liver. The higher pressure forces blood through smaller vessels in your gullet and stomach which can burst under pressure and lead to internal bleeding. Over time, the toxins that the liver would normally remove can even lead to multiple organ failure, and death.
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