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How cirrhosis affects the liver functions?

Cirrhosis is a chronic (ongoing, long-term) disease of the liver. It means damage to the normal liver tissue. This tissue is the reason that keeps this important organ from working as it should. The liver gradually loses its ability to carry out its normal functions. This is called liver failure, which is also referred to as end-stage liver disease. The liver is the largest organ in the body and one of the most essential.

The functions of the liver include:
– Detoxification
– Protein synthesis
– Production of biochemicals that are necessary for digestion
– Glycogen storage
– Decomposition of red blood cells
– Plasma protein synthesis
– Hormone production

How cirrhosis affects the liver functions?

Portal hypertension:
– The nodules and scar tissue can compress veins within the liver.
– This causes the blood pressure within the liver to be high
– High pressures within blood vessels of the liver occur in 60% of people who have cirrhosis.
– Cirrhosis is the most common cause of portal hypertension in the United States.
– Portal hypertension may cause bleeding into the intestines.
– It can cause fluid accumulation throughout the body.

Hepatic Encephalopathy:
– In this condition, toxins build up in the bloodstream.
– This is because the scarred liver is unable to rid them from the body.
– The toxins can cause you to behave bizarrely, to become confused.
– This tends to lose your ability to take care of yourself or others.
– Some people become very sleepy and cannot waken easily.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding:
– Portal hypertension causes backing up of blood flow in the veins of the stomach and esophagus.
– This causes the veins to enlarge, forming “varices” (varicose veins).
– These varices can tear and bleed, and this bleeding can be life threatening.
– This usually shows up as vomiting blood.

Since liver cannot form the proteins needed to fight off infection due to cirrhosis, the body is prone to infections.

Fluid retention (ascites):
– High pressures (portal hypertension) force fluid out of blood vessels in your liver that pools in the abdomen.
– Several liters of this fluid causes pain, swelling, difficulty breathing, and dehydration.
– As fluid pools the kidneys will try to hold onto more water.
– This is because they think your body is dehydrated.
– The excess fluid collects in your lungs, legs, and abdomen.

Hepatorenal Syndrome:
Liver failure leads to kidney failure in some people.

Other facts
– Often the progress toward liver failure is slow and gradual.
– Cirrhosis is caused mostly due to chronic alcoholism and hepatitis C.
– There is no cure for cirrhosis.
– Removing the cause can slow the disease.
– If the damage is not too severe, the liver can heal itself over time.

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