While you might have some understanding of cirrhosis and the effects it can have on your body and quality of life, here at Imperial Digestive Health Specialists PLLC, Dr. Oforbuike Ewelukwa and our team want to help you understand everything there is to know about this condition. Let’s start here:
Cirrhosis is a progressive liver disease that often goes undetected until it reaches advanced stages. It can result from various factors, such as chronic alcohol abuse, viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and even certain genetic conditions.
Understanding how cirrhosis affects your liver
Your liver plays a crucial role in filtering toxins from your blood, producing bile to aid in digestion, and storing vitamins and minerals. When cirrhosis sets in, scar tissue gradually replaces your healthy liver tissue, which impairs your liver's normal functions.
Signs to watch for
You might be surprised to know that cirrhosis can have silent symptoms or mimic other less serious conditions, such as:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal swelling
These symptoms can be non-specific, making it crucial to consult with Dr. Ewelukwa for an accurate diagnosis.
Key facts you might not know about cirrhosis
Things you might not know about cirrhosis include:
The disease can be silent
Cirrhosis doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. But the absence of symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you're in the clear. Regular checkups with Dr. Ewelukwa, especially if you have risk factors like viral hepatitis or a family history of liver disease, are crucial for early detection and treatment.
If you don’t drink, you won’t develop the disease
While alcohol abuse is a leading cause of cirrhosis, it's not the only one. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), often associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome, are increasingly common causes of cirrhosis. You need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage underlying conditions to protect your liver.
The liver heals itself
Unlike some other organs, the liver has a remarkable ability to regenerate. However, once cirrhosis has developed, the scar tissue replaces your healthy liver tissue, impairing its function. While lifestyle changes and medical treatments can slow down the progression of cirrhosis, the scar tissue is unlikely to reverse completely without medical intervention.
Cirrhosis leads to cancer
Cirrhosis does increase the risk of developing liver cancer, but it's not an absolute certainty. Regular monitoring and early detection of cirrhosis can help identify any signs of liver cancer promptly. We can guide you on the appropriate screenings and surveillance based on your risk factors.
A cirrhosis diagnosis means I need a liver transplant
Cirrhosis is a progressive condition, but not everyone with cirrhosis requires a liver transplant. With early detection, lifestyle modifications, and appropriate medical interventions, its progression can be slowed down, and complications can be managed effectively without the need for a transplant.
How to prevent cirrhosis
If you enjoy a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or a cocktail on occasion, that's typically perfectly fine. But excessive alcohol consumption can seriously damage your liver over time. That’s why it's important to practice moderation and seek help if you're struggling with alcohol misuse.
Viral hepatitis prevention is also important. Hepatitis B and C viruses are common culprits behind cirrhosis. We provide hepatitis C screening and can also make sure you're up to date with your vaccinations.
We also encourage safe-sex practices to reduce your risk of contracting these infections.
As liver disease specialists, we're here to provide guidance if you have questions or concerns about cirrhosis. If you’re diagnosed with cirrhosis, we work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan that may involve medications, dietary changes, and monitoring for complications. Our goal is to help you manage your condition effectively and maintain your liver health.
Though cirrhosis isn't always preventable and can sometimes occur without a clear cause, early detection is crucial. Regular checkups, liver function tests, and imaging studies can help identify cirrhosis in its early stages, giving you a better chance at successful treatment and management.
If you suspect you have cirrhosis or want a prevention checkup, call or text our friendly office staff for an appointment at 832-639-5725 or click online today.