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Health cirrhosis: Everything you need to know about the life-threatening disease

Cirrhosis - for those affected it is a real shock diagnosis. Here we explain what it means when the largest detoxification organ fails in service.

Bloating and pressure in the abdomen are the first signs of cirrhosis
Photo: iStock
  1. What happens in liver cirrhosis?
  2. Cirrhosis: These are the symptoms
  3. Cirrhosis: These causes can have the disease
  4. Examinations and diagnosis
  5. Which forms of therapy are there for cirrhosis?
  6. Prognosis and course of liver cirrhosis

It is the largest organ of detoxification in man; the liver deprives the blood of harmful substances and produces bile, which is needed for digestion . By removing and remodeling toxins, however, the largest of all internal organs can be damaged and lead to liver disease . Cirrhosis is the final stage of other chronic liver diseases.

What happens in liver cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is preceded by other chronic liver diseases that have ultimately led to the life-threatening illness. In liver cirrhosis , functional cells that were previously involved in liver detoxification die and are replaced by scarred connective tissue . However, the scarred tissue can no longer take on the tasks of the liver.

While the liver forms new tissue in cirrhosis of the liver, its shape also changes at the same time: it forms cusps, nodules and becomes noticeably smaller, which is why one speaks of a ' shrinking liver '. Cirrhosis usually develops over years to decades. Fast courses of just one year are very untypical for the disease. In industrial baths, 250 people suffer from the disease per 100, 000 inhabitants per year . The ratio of men to women is 2: 1 .

Cirrhosis: These are the symptoms

Cirrhosis typically goes unnoticed for a long time before the first symptoms appear. General characteristics are fatigue, fatigue and a feeling of pressure and fullness . Also skin changes and hormonal disturbances are typical indications. By converting the liver only a part of the blood is detoxified. As a result, the skin and the conjunctivae turn yellow and disorders of brain function, metabolism and mental changes occur. Also a disturbed carbohydrate metabolism and too high insulin levels are conspicuous symptoms of liver cirrhosis patients .

Symptoms of liver cirrhosis:

General symptoms

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • anorexia
  • Bloating, constipation
  • jaundice
  • Water retention in the abdomen and legs
  • shortness of breath
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Varicose veins in the esophagus, in the stomach
  • Changes in the stool ('tarry stool' discolored by internal bleeding)
  • emaciation
  • liver cancer
  • Changes in consciousness

Hormonal changes

  • menstrual disorders
  • mood swings
  • Changes in sleep patterns

skin lesions

  • itching
  • painful cracks in the corners of the mouth
  • Loss of hair, increased vascular drawing in the abdominal area
  • White nails, clock glass nails
  • Thickening of the tendons of the palms
  • Regression of the musculature, tendency to osteoporosis
  • Dilation of the skin vessels
  • reddened palm
  • "Lacquered lips, lacquer tongue"

Cirrhosis: These causes can have the disease

In Europe, alcohol abuse and chronic viral hepatitis (especially hepatitis C) are the most common causes of the disease . In developing countries, especially hepatitis diseases are the cause of the disease . Other rarer triggers are the handling of toxic substances, autoimmune hepatitis and tropical diseases.

Examinations and diagnosis

If there is a suspicion of cirrhosis of the liver, for example, because you have observed skin changes or are suffering from digestive problems, you should consult an internist . This first scans the abdomen. If the liver is hardened and the spleen enlarged, this could indicate liver cirrhosis .

Which forms of therapy are there for cirrhosis?

There is still no therapy that can reverse the damage to the liver and stop the formation of new connective tissue. However, the further destruction of the liver can be stopped by a treatment.

If there is cirrhosis of the liver, it dispenses with potentially toxic substances such as alcohol and medicines. Since patients are often malnourished, the supply of vitamins and energy must be increased . Often, patients are given extra nutrition. As osteoporosis often occurs in association with cirrhosis of the liver, additional calcium is administered to patients.

Acute symptoms caused by liver cirrhosis, such as water retention, can be flushed out by the appropriate medication . Inflammations in the abdomen are treated with antibiotics. Varicose veins become desolate in therapy.

If cirrhosis of the liver is already well advanced, a liver transplant can help.

Prognosis and course of liver cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the liver is not yet curable, and the life expectancy of patients suffering from the disease is significantly reduced. However, abstaining from alcohol can positively influence the course of the disease. The most common causes of liver cirrhosis are liver failure, bleeding from varicose veins in the stomach and esophagus, and liver cancer .