Cirrhosis Of The Liver – Stages and Life Expectancy
Cirrhosis is a long-term, chronic condition of the liver.
It is often associated with numerous fatal complications, i.e., blood in a cough, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, microbial infections, bleeding, stress, kidney failure, etc. how would you get cirrhosis depends upon multiple factors, and it is nearly impossible to estimate the damage and life expectancy after this liver damage.
It affects different persons differently.
What is Cirrhosis?
Medically, cirrhosis is scarring of the healthy liver tissue, which makes the liver functioning well. It is a type of damage, which if not stopped gradually causes more loss of ability. The liver is unable to carry out its functions, and most of the times it ends on liver failure. (1)
Know these basic details on liver before going in detail of cirrhosis.
- The liver is the largest organ inside the body.
- The liver has a size of a football.
- The liver is located on the right side of chest; it is below the lower rib cage.
- The liver secretes substances, which perform some functions, i.e., fight against infectious elements, make the blood clot, filter toxins, control the transportation of materials out of blood, digestion of nutrients and energy storage.
- Liver infections are of two types; acute and chronic. Acute infections such as hepatitis are short term. Chronic liver disease, i.e., cirrhosis is a long-term condition.
- The liver helps in cellular damage repair by filling the scar tissue.
- The inability of loss of liver affects the body in the harmful way as it is no more able to perform its functions normally.
Image 1: A comparison of healthy and cirrhosis liver
Picture Source: jonbarron.org
Signs and Symptoms of Cirrhosis of the Liver
Surprisingly, there are no symptoms of the early phase of cirrhosis. Any sign or symptom of liver cirrhosis will only show up when there are any of the following conditions.
When the liver is gradually failing to perform its functions.
When the regular shape and size of the liver is disturbed due to scarring.
A person suffering from liver cirrhosis is most likely to exhibit the following symptoms. (2)
- Feeling tired all the time
- Over exhaustion
- Loss of appetite
- Gradual weight loss
- Lack of libido
These symptoms are general. A person may never know that he is suffering from cirrhosis of liver unless a more defined sign shows up.
The symptoms written above are widespread and are common with some other health problems. More defined symptoms of liver cirrhosis are as follows. (3)
- Fever and vomiting
- Body itching
- Abdominal swelling and pain
- Swelling of ankles or legs
- A feeling of bloating
- Difficult breathing
- Bleeding from gums and nose
- Easy bruising
- Blood in vomit, cough or feces
- Irregular menstrual periods (only in women)
- Gynecomastia (only in men)
What Causes Cirrhosis of Liver?
Cirrhosis is caused by some factors that include long-term internal inflammation, medicinal reaction, poison, infections, alcoholism, hepatitis or heart problems.
On the other hand, for up to 30% to 50% patients with cirrhosis, there is no definite reason for it to occur.
Knowing the reason is necessary because there is no treatment of cirrhosis. The only cure is to resolve the cause of cirrhosis to affect you. If it is diagnosed at early stages, the liver can self-heal itself.
Stages of liver cirrhosis
Cirrhosis has four stages. Based on your medical history, symptoms, and signs, the doctor will diagnose your stage of cirrhosis. (4)
Stage one is the earliest stage in cirrhosis. It has a significant character that is the absence of two complications; varices and ascites.
- Varices: It means dilated and ballooned veins, which are mostly present in the inner lining of stomach and esophagus.
- Ascites: It is an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity.
At the stage of cirrhosis, there is extensive liver scarring, but it is not that severe to cause substantial portal hypertension and further complications. You can say that stage one is a compensated form of cirrhosis. Despite the less damage to the liver, it appears as a clinical liver failure.
At stage one, cirrhosis patients don’t experience any symptom other than fatigue, loss of energy and restlessness. This stage is reversible if a doctor curs the underlying factor to cause liver cirrhosis.
Stage two cirrhosis starts when there is a development of esophageal varices. It usually occurs when portal hypertension goes worse. Anyhow there is no presence of ascites at this stage.
This stage is also considered as a compensated stage of cirrhosis, despite the development of esophageal varices. That is a clear sign that indicates worsening condition of cirrhosis with reduced life expectancy.
It means, even at stage two, the chance of partial reversal of cirrhosis is possible when the underlying cause of the disease is identified and treated.
The third stage of cirrhosis features development of ascites, with or without the presence of varices. The volume of these ascites is different as they could be detectable through imaging. At the third stage, cirrhosis shows worst portal hypertension linked with extreme liver scarring and deterioration of liver function.
At this stage, cirrhosis cannot be reversed. It means that liver has an apparent risk of failing. The only recommendation at this stage is a liver transplant.
The fourth stage of cirrhosis is the worst form of the disease. It features gastrointestinal bleeding, which is usually from ruptured varices from the esophagus and stomach. The occurrence of this type of bleeding is deadly if it is not controlled.
The life expectancy at stage four of cirrhosis is least. The patient has a high risk of dying within one year. The only recommendation here at this stage is a liver transplant, if possible.
Diagnostic tests for cirrhosis
To correctly diagnose the liver cirrhosis, following tests may help.
these tests tell if the functioning of the liver is healthy or not. But blood tests are only a basic tool.
an ultrasound or CT scan can show the signs of cirrhosis on the liver.
an analysis of liver tissue confirms fibrosis and scarring of the liver. The results of the liver biopsy are 100% accurate and reliable. (5)
it is a procedure in which a tiny camera is inserted inside the abdomen via a small cut. It gives a direct image of liver and tells the exact condition of the disease.
If you go through a major complication without been identifying with liver cirrhosis, you need some tests for correct diagnosis. It may require you to get hospitalized for some days.
The Treatment of Cirrhosis
Any treatment for cirrhosis cannot make it 100% health again. The liver damage is irreversible. However, some options may stop or slow the progression of the underlying factor that causes cirrhosis. It can reduce the risk of future complications.
Image 2: Progression of healthy liver to cirrhosis
Picture Source: www.gmwatch.org
Medicinal treatment for cirrhosis
Most of the treatments of cirrhosis provide relief in symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Some of the practical medication options are steroids, penicillamine, and anti-inflammatory drugs. These medicines are not linked with any prolonging of survival. (6)
Home care practices for cirrhosis
- Stop drinking alcohol and avoid all the possible means to intake it.
- Do not use medicines that may harm your liver.
- Avoid unnecessary medication.
- Reduce salt in your diet.
- Eat a balanced diet, which is nutrient rich.
Life expectancy by liver cirrhosis
If the patient is at initial stages and has no further complications, he may live for 12-20 years after being diagnosed with cirrhosis. But he has to quit using alcohol and take necessary medicines and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of liver damage. (7)
If the patient is at a higher stage of cirrhosis, he may develop complications, which decrease the life expectancy. It could be anything from 3 months to 3 years.
Photo 3: Reduced life expectancy with liver cirrhosis
Picture Source: images.medicaldaily.com
If the patients go through a successful liver transplant, he can increase his life expectancy by 80% as compared to those without a liver transplant. Unfortunately, not all patients are medically fit to go through liver transplant surgery hence they cannot take this option.
The recovery from liver cirrhosis depends upon the cause of cirrhosis. If the underlying cause is diagnosed and you can treat it, it adds years to your life. But if there is no known reason, it is life threatening. Liver transplant is the best treatment for cirrhosis, but it is available and suitable for only a limited number of people.