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How Long Do You Live With Cirrhosis of the Liver?

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 2/28/2010

How long do you live with cirrhosis of the liver? The answer depends on the course of treatment pursue, as well as how well you take care of your body throughout the course of the disease.

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    What is Cirrhosis?

    Cirrhosis is a slow deterioration of the liver, which causes the liver to stop functioning properly. When it functions normally, the liver carries out several functions. These functions include removing toxins from the blood, controlling infection, producing proteins, producing bile, removing bacteria from the blood, and processing nutrients and drugs that you ingest. When damage occurs in healthy liver tissue, the body can regenerate most of the cells needed for the liver to continue functioning normally. When the liver has existing damage, the liver cannot replace these cells.

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    Causes

    Cirrhosis has several causes. Chronic alcoholism is one of the major causes of cirrhosis. Heavy alcohol use causes irreparable damage to the liver tissue. Women have an increased risk of cirrhosis since it takes fewer drinks to cause liver damage. Hepatitis B, C, and D also play a role in the development of cirrhosis. These infections occur with exposure to infected blood. This can occur due to the shared use of needles or razors or exposure to semen and other body fluids. Hepatitis causes liver inflammation, leading to injury and cirrhosis.

    Other medical conditions also contribute to the development of cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease results in the buildup of fatty deposits in the liver. This results in tissue damage and increased risk for other diseases. NAFLD occurs more often in obese patients and those who have coronary artery disease or protein malnutrition. Autoimmune hepatitis causes antibodies to destroy healthy liver tissue, leading to cirrhosis. Medical conditions that destroy the bile ducts also contribute to cirrhosis. Illegal drugs, legal medications, and exposure to industrial toxins may also cause cirrhosis.

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    Symptoms

    As cirrhosis gets worse, symptoms start to appear. Symptoms of cirrhosis include fatigue, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, itching, abdominal pain, buildup of fluid in the abdomen, and weakness.

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    How Long Do You Live with Cirrhosis of the Liver?

    If you’re wondering, “How long do you live with cirrhosis of the liver,” there’s no one answer for every person. It depends on how well you manage your disease. Cirrhosis has many complications, some of which can increase the risk for other medical conditions. These complications include portal hypertension, swelling (edema), ascites (buildup of fluid in the abdomen), bruising, bleeding, spleen enlargement, jaundice (yellowed skin), medication sensitivity, gallstones, liver enlargement, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, liver cancer, immune problems, and infection.

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    Severity

    Doctors use several blood tests to determine the severity of cirrhosis. These blood tests include the INR blood test, which measures blood clotting tendencies; the creatinine blood test, which measures kidney function; and the bilirubin test, which checks the levels of bile pigment in the blood.

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    Treatment

    Proper treatment of cirrhosis includes eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcoholic beverages. A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can slow the progression of cirrhosis and help you reduce the risk for other medical conditions. Reducing alcohol intake prevents further damage to the liver. If cirrhosis progresses, and other treatment measures stop working, a liver transplant can relieve the symptoms of cirrhosis and extend a person’s lifespan.


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