The number of individuals in their 20s and 30s with acute liver disease due to alcohol use has been steadily rising, with a new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism revealing that from 1999 to 2017 annual alcohol-related deaths doubled. Likewise, a 2018 study in the British Medical Journal found a similar pattern for the same time period, with the highest increase in cirrhosis of the liver among individuals between the ages of 25 to 34.
Liver cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver no longer functions properly, with long-term alcohol use one of the most common causes. Cirrhosis, which is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., is characterized by severe scar tissue that takes the place of healthy liver cells.
Data from the National Institutes of Health indicate that women who drink more than two alcoholic beverages daily on a long term basis greatly increase their risk of liver damage. Cirrhosis of the liver doesn’t happen overnight, but once the condition takes hold, your health is in for a serious battle.
Normally the liver is a hardy structure, capable of regenerating damaged cells. But when cirrhosis is present a once healthy liver hardens and shrinks, and its ability to repair itself is curtailed.
Heavy alcohol consumption, obesity and an unchecked hepatitis B or C infection greatly increase the odds of contracting cirrhosis of the liver.
Here is a list of other conditions associated with a raised risk for liver cirrhosis:
- Autoimmune diseases that cause your body to attack liver cells
- Excessive iron buildup in your body
- Diseases that make it hard for the body to process sugars
- Adverse reactions to certain medications
- Cystic fibrosis and Wilson’s disease
- Bile duct blockage
- Infections including syphilis and brucellosis
The liver is an organ located in the upper right side of your abdomen, just below the rib cage. The key roles of the liver include helping the body fight off infection, filtering toxins from the blood, and producing enzymes that aid in food digestion as well as storage of sugar and nutrients.
Each time the liver incurs an injury it tries to repair itself and in the process scar tissue forms. When cirrhosis is present for a long period of time the scar tissue builds up, not only replacing healthy cells with bad ones but making it difficult for the liver to perform properly.
Liver cancer is one of the many complications that can arise from cirrhosis, as is high blood due to a slowing of the blood through the liver. As a result of the increased pressure, it is common to have swelling in the abdomen and legs due to fluid retention in these areas, as well as an enlargement of the spleen.
If you or someone you know has liver cirrhosis you’re probably aware that the body’s ability to fight infection becomes compromised. At the same time, cirrhosis makes it harder for the body to process the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, resulting in malnutrition, weakness and weight loss.
Lastly, in worst-case scenarios, some cirrhosis sufferers wind up with multiple organ failure.
What are the symptoms of liver cirrhosis? The bad news is that cirrhosis can take place over a period of time with no obvious symptoms present resulting in great damage being done before you’re aware of the problem.
When cirrhosis is present, however, the following symptoms eventually appear:
- Bruising or bleeding
- Swelling in the legs or stomach
- Intense itching
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
Additionally, changes in the skin take place such as jaundice, (yellowing of eyes or skin), redness in the palms of the hands, spiderweb-like blood vessels, whitening of the nails. Some may notice cognitive issues, e.g. trouble with memory, focus or concentration, and women may stop menstruating.
Other worrisome signs that cirrhosis may be present include brownish urine, vomiting of blood, fever, severe muscle cramps, brittle bones, and an enlarged spleen.
It’s important to know that some of these signs can be symptoms of other serious conditions, so it’s best to see a medical professional if you are experiencing one or more. In fact, you may not know that you have cirrhosis until you have a routine medical checkup.
If your doctor suspects cirrhosis, he will order a blood test and perhaps do an MRI or ultrasound. If a biopsy is needed, a sample of your liver tissue will be taken and examined in order to determine the amount of damage that has been incurred.
In general, once the liver is damaged, the injury cannot be reversed. That’s why it’s important to receive an early diagnosis so that further damage is limited and your outcome is favorable.
Treatment options for cirrhosis of the liver are dependent on how badly damaged your liver has become, with the aim of protecting the health of the remaining cells a primary goal. Therefore it makes sense that the first step of treatment will be to stop whatever is causing the damage.
This could range from eliminating alcohol use immediately, losing weight if obesity is the problem or taking medication to treat hepatitis B or C.
Lifelong recovery is possible: all you need to do is reach out. Starbent Recovery was founded on the belief that people suffering from addictive disorders, trauma, and other co-occurring issues can thrive in the right environment. Our professional, dedicated staff have the understanding, experience, and compassion necessary to support each resident’s clinical treatment team goals.
We offer individualized tier level programs and guidance with residents’ personal recovery and independent living goals. Our safe, peer residence offers luxury amenities and is located in the heart of upscale Tribeca close to multiple subway lines and surrounded by trendy dining and shopping. To learn more about our premier women’s recovery residence, call us at (800) 673-0176.