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Is Heavy Drinking the Most Common Cause of Cirrhosis?

Is Heavy Drinking the Most Common Cause of Cirrhosis?

When you experience symptoms like fluid buildup in the belly, vomiting with blood, jaundice, weakness, and easy bruising, you might end up reading about cirrhosis of the liver. What is liver cirrhosis, and how can you treat it? Find out here.

What Is Liver Cirrhosis?

Each time the liver sustains an injury or damage – either through excessive alcohol intake or disease – it attempts to repair itself, and the process often results in scar tissues. The more persistent the damage is, the more scar tissues form.

Even with cirrhosis, the liver may continue working, but please note that scar tissues still interfere with normal liver function. After all, scar tissues are not the same as healthy liver tissues.

The more advanced the cirrhosis is, the more the person is at risk of having liver failure and other complications.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cirrhosis?

Now that we have shed some light on the question, what is liver cirrhosis?, let’s talk about the signs and symptoms.

The symptoms of liver cirrhosis depend on how advanced the scarring is. In the early stages, you may not present with any symptoms, but if you do, they are general and can easily be mistaken for another health concern.

Some of these early symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or abdominal discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss

As the scarring worsens and liver function decreases, the common symptoms of liver cirrhosis start showing up:

  • Jaundice or having a yellow tinge on the skin and sclera (white of the eye)
  • Itchy skin
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Ascites or fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • Orange or brown-colored urine
  • Blood in stool or light-colored stool
  • Redness in the palm of your hands
  • Spider-like blood vessels on the skin
  • Confusion and behavioral changes

Women may also experience missed periods unrelated to menopause; men may have enlargement of the breast, testicular atrophy (shrinking), and loss of sex drive.

If you experience the symptoms of liver cirrhosis, please get in touch with your doctor right away.

Is Heavy Drinking the Most Common Cause of Cirrhosis?

Experts say the most common causes of cirrhosis are:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chronic viral infections, particularly hepatitis B and C
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Still, please keep in mind that anything that damages the liver has the potential to cause scarring. Some of the less common causes of liver cirrhosis are:

  • Hemochromatosis, where there is excessive amounts of iron in the body
  • Cystic fibrosis, where thick, sticky mucus creates blockages in the liver
  • Wilson’s disease, where there’s excess copper in the liver
  • Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Certain medications, like isoniazid, a common antibiotic against tuberculosis
  • Destruction, hardening, or scarring of the bile ducts
  • Some infections, like brucellosis or syphilis
  • Inherited disorders, like galactosemia
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, a condition caused by the body’s immune system

How To Manage Liver Cirrhosis

Besides knowing the answer to the question, “What is liver cirrhosis?”, it’s also crucial to understand its treatment.

Experts say there’s no cure for cirrhosis and the scarring is permanent. The management goals revolve around slowing the progress of the disease and preventing and treating both the symptoms and complications.

In most cases, the doctor will first treat the underlying cause of liver cirrhosis. If you drink heavily, they might treat you for alcohol dependency. If you have hepatitis, they will give you medicines for it.

Likewise, the doctor will also walk you through lifestyle changes that ease your symptoms, slow down progression, and prevent complications. These lifestyle changes include eating a healthy, balanced diet, particularly one low in sodium, not drinking alcohol, and managing other symptoms caused by cirrhosis.

Finally, when the liver function fails, the doctor may recommend a liver transplant.

Learn more about Liver Diseases here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 3 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD