Patients can have Cirrhosis for years without having any symptoms. This is called “compensated cirrhosis” where there is enough healthy liver tissue to carry out the functions of the liver. When this progresses to the point where there is not enough functional liver tissue over to support the metabolic demands, this is called “decompensated cirrhosis”. A patient is diagnosed with “decompensated” when symptoms start to arise, such as fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, haemorrhage of dilated blood vessels, usually in the oesophagus and stomach, altered mental state due to the liver's inability to remove toxins from the blood, or jaundice (yellowing of the white of the eyes or skin).
The liver has quite a few diverse responsibilities in the body, which can lead to functional loss in different areas of the body, digestion, detoxification, circulation, energy production, and immune function, this could lead to life-threatening complications, such as cardiovascular and pulmonary problems, kidney failure, serious infection, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, and neurological, endocrine and skeletal disorders.
Currently, the only cure for this disease is a liver transplant. However, awareness of alcohol consumption and obesity could help prevent the disease, early detection and treatment of underlying conditions can slow down the process, and dietary with lifestyle changes may further improve the quality of life in people who have Cirrhosis.
The Liver has a few functions in the body, as it is the largest organ of the digestive system:
- The liver secretes bile to break down and absorb dietary fats
- Receives fatty acids and lipoproteins, from the blood and recycles them throughout the body.
- Stores excess glucose as glycogen to fuel the nervous system–when starvation occurs
- Changes excess amino acids into glucose and detoxes the by-product ammonia, into urea, to be excreted from the body.
- The liver stores Vit B12, A, D, K and minerals iron and copper.
- Forms Albumin, the main protein in blood and which is responsible for maintaining blood volume for circulation, as well as the transfer of Oxygen to the surrounding tissues.
- Forms most of the clotting factors, necessary for stopping the blood flow to a damaged blood vessel or organ.
The liver also acts as a filter, detoxifying foreign molecules and endogenous metabolites. The liver receives blood from your intestines, and from the body’s circulation. It consists of hepatocytes, cells which take up 80% of the total liver volume and take part in most of the functions of the liver. These cells are very active and take part in most of the liver’s detoxification, synthetic, and storage activities. The blood and contents that have been filtered and broken down, by the hepatocytes, leave the liver via the hepatic vein and enters the system's circulation. The excess hormones, foreign toxins, metabolites from dead cells are also excreted from the liver via its bile canal and ducts. This is also stored in the gallbladder and then excreted into the intestines for ultimate excretion. This is how the liver constantly circulates the blood, and clear it of waste and toxins. While also providing a filtration of ingested foods from the intestines, before it enters the general circulation.
Given all its functions, one can see how stressed the liver can be, when there is an increased alcohol intake, infections by hepatitis viruses, or when storing excessive amounts of fat, this may affect several major functions of the liver, and become a serious health threat.