Liver cirrhosis develops when scar tissue starts to replace healthy cells throughout the liver, often resulting from long-term excessive alcohol or drug consumption, or from contracting hepatitis B or C. The latter can be acquired through sexual intercourse or contact with infected blood. In the United States, hepatitis C infection is the leading cause of liver cirrhosis. As scar tissue accumulates over time, the liver becomes hardened and lumpy, gradually impairing its ability to function properly. Consequently, the liver’s capacity to filter blood is diminished, potentially leading to ruptured blood vessels. In some cases, liver cirrhosis complications may include spleen enlargement or splenomegaly.
The liver plays a crucial role in detoxifying the blood and maintaining the overall health of the body. One of the most frequently reported symptoms of liver cirrhosis, whether caused by chronic alcohol consumption or hepatitis C, is fatigue. This feeling of exhaustion can come and go or persist constantly, and its severity can range from mild to completely debilitating. It’s essential to monitor and address any signs of liver cirrhosis to ensure the proper functioning and well-being of the entire body.
Increased Tendency to Bleed
Excessive bleeding is a prevalent symptom of advanced liver cirrhosis, often resulting from low platelet levels. In most cases of liver cirrhosis, the platelet count is low not because the body isn’t producing enough, but because the platelets become trapped in the spleen. It is crucial to seek medical attention for any unusual bleeding, as this may indicate a more severe underlying issue.
Appearance of Spider Angiomas
One of the most noticeable symptoms of liver cirrhosis is the appearance of spider veins or blood vessels, which occur when an artery surrounded by smaller vessels is impacted by liver damage. While spider veins can also develop due to other, less severe causes, their presence may indicate liver cirrhosis when accompanied by a sudden increase of the hormone estradiol. This increase causes the vessels to expand and become visible beneath the skin. It’s important to note that spider veins are more commonly observed in individuals with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, as opposed to those with cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C or B.
Development of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia refers to the abnormal enlargement of male breast tissue, often caused by a significant hormonal imbalance. This condition typically results from an increase in the hormone estradiol, which causes breast enlargement and a decrease in testosterone levels. It is important for individuals experiencing gynecomastia to consult with a physician for further investigation and appropriate treatment.
Occurrence of Hypogonadism
Hypogonadism, a hormonal imbalance characterized by a severe deficiency in sex hormones, can affect both men and women, but is more pronounced in men. This condition causes the genitals to shrink and can have a negative impact on libido, sometimes leading to significantly reduced testicular functions. Alcohol consumption plays a role in affecting testosterone levels, as it increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to decrease testosterone production. When hypogonadism is related to liver cirrhosis, it often indicates an advanced stage of the disease.
Fluid Accumulation in the Abdomen
Approximately 80% of people with liver cirrhosis experience a buildup of fluid in the abdomen, known as ascites. This condition results in abdominal swelling and visible veins. If left untreated, the excess fluid can cause organ damage and may even be fatal.
Experiencing foul breath despite maintaining good dental hygiene can sometimes signal an underlying health issue. In the case of liver cirrhosis, bad breath may develop as a result of increased levels of dimethyl sulfide, a substance released when the liver isn’t functioning correctly. This distinct odor, which differs from typical morning breath, could indicate an advanced stage of liver disease and should not be ignored.
Onset of Jaundice
Bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cell breakdown, is typically processed by the liver and eliminated through stools. However, when the liver malfunctions due to cirrhosis, excessive bilirubin may accumulate in the liver. This yellowish substance can cause the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow when present in high amounts, signaling that toxins are not being properly eliminated and putting the body at risk of self-poisoning. Jaundice, as this condition is called, requires treatment and lifestyle changes that often involve cutting out alcohol consumption to protect the liver and maintain overall health.
Darkening of Urine
Bilirubin, a substance produced by the liver, can cause dark urine – a symptom that might be more easily noticed than slightly discolored skin. Fortunately, dark urine is often an indicator of liver cirrhosis, which can lead doctors to investigate and diagnose the condition more promptly. However, dehydration can also cause urine to appear darker than usual, so physicians will typically rule out this possibility before conducting liver tests.
Gradual Change in Liver Size
In the early stages of liver cirrhosis, inflammation leads to an enlarged liver. However, as the disease advances, the liver develops more scar tissue, which causes it to shrink. This scarring disrupts blood flow, resulting in additional damage and further shrinking of the organ.