Liver cirrhosis, commonly referred to as hepatic cirrhosis, is a disease of the liver in which the liver cells and/or tissues become damaged. When this occurs, the tissue or cells are replaced with scar tissue. As a result, the function of the liver declines and liver failure can ensue. Since the liver serves as a type of filter for the blood and controls many important functions within the body, those with cirrhosis of the liver will experience systemic, or widespread, effects of the condition.
What Cirrhosis of the Liver Does to the Body
Cirrhosis of the liver can cause swelling and edema, jaundice, and prevent blood from clotting properly. In addition to this, those with this condition are also at increased risk of certain types of cancer and digestion in the small intestine is often decreased. However, these are only a few of the number of things that cirrhosis can do to the body. This is because the liver is a vital organ that helps maintain and control blood sugar levels, creates digestive enzymes, and plays an important role in immunity. Resistance to insulin and failure of the kidneys and lungs are also possible. Those suffering from liver cirrhosis are more susceptible to illness and disease than other persons. Toxins will build up in the body, as can medication or other substances.
What Causes These Responses?
As previously mentioned, the liver acts as a filter of the blood among many other things. When the cells and tissue of the liver is damaged and scar tissue forms, blood flow to the organ significantly decreases. Thus, the liver cannot effectively filter alcohol, medications, bacteria, and other harmful substances that may be found in the blood. The ability to process and produce necessary components for other bodily systems is also reduced. This causes problems with the production of bile, which is necessary for digestion and the inability or impairment of the formation of blood clotting proteins. Hence, this is why patients may bruise easily and may develop bleeding disorders.
Preventing Systemic Conditions
Effectively treating liver cirrhosis is key in minimizing the effects of the disease on the body. However, there is no cure for this condition. Rather, the goal is to prevent further damage to the liver. This will depend on what has caused the liver damage, the stage of the disease, and overall health. Avoiding and/or abstaining from alcohol and other substances that can potentially increase damage to the liver is crucial. In more advanced stages of liver cirrhosis, the only option may be for the patient to have a liver transplant.
Cirrhosis. National Institute of Health. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. NIH Publication No. 09-1134. December 2008. Viewed 23, December 2010. https://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis/.
Cirrhosis of the Liver. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2001-2010. Viewed 24, December 2010. https://www.mayoclinic.org/cirrhosis/treatment.html.