Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage, and scar tissue prevents the liver from working properly. While your liver can keep working when you have cirrhosis, it can eventually lead to liver failure.
So what are the signs of cirrhosis to look out for? four signs may be more overlooked than others.
Johns Hopkins Medicine lists the symptoms of cirrhosis and four that may be confused for other, less serious conditions are:
- Loss of appetite
- Easy bruising
- Low energy and weakness (fatigue)
Itchy skin isn’t usually the sign of anything serious and is often caused by dry, cracked or irritated skin.
Loss of appetite can occur if a person has a cold, food poisoning or as a side effect of medication.
People tend to bruise more easily as they age because blood vessels become weaker.
And low energy and weakness can be due to tiredness – too many late nights, long hours spent at work or a baby keeping you up at night.
Johns Hopkins Medicine says symptoms of cirrhosis may vary, depending on how severe your cirrhosis is.
Mild cirrhosis may not cause any symptoms at all.
It adds: “The symptoms of cirrhosis may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.”
Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Fluid buildup in the belly (ascites)
- Vomiting blood, often from bleeding in the blood vessels in the food pipe (esophagus)
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Kidney failure
- Muscle loss
- Spider-like veins in the skin
- Weight loss
- Confusion as toxins build up in the blood
The treatment of cirrhosis depends on the cause – it cannot usually be cured, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and any complications.
The NHS advises if you have cirrhosis, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your chances of further problems and complications.
- avoid alcohol
- quit smoking
- lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
- do regular exercise to reduce muscle loss
- practise good hygiene to reduce your chance of getting infections
- speak to a GP about vaccinations you may need, such as the annual flu vaccine or travel vaccines
- speak to a GP or pharmacist if you’re taking over-the-counter or prescription medicines, because cirrhosis can affect the way some medicines work
Better than treatment is prevention. The three main causes of liver disease are:
- an undiagnosed hepatitis infection
- alcohol misuse
You can reduce your risk of many types of liver disease with some simple lifestyle changes such as:
- trying to maintain a healthy weight
- not drinking too much alcohol
Dr. Romero-Marrero also offers four tips for keeping your liver healthy:
- Exercise at least fives times a week for at least 30 minutes each time.
- Eat a healthy diet that is low in refined sugars, processed foods, sweets, sodas, and refined carbohydrates. Choose fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods instead.
- Drink moderately — no more than two daily drinks for men and one for women.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Ultimately, remember that alcohol abuse isn’t the only cause of liver failure. Take care of your body and control chronic conditions to keep your liver healthy, he says.
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