The majority of people link heavy drinking to cirrhosis, but it isn’t the complete picture. Even teetotalers can acquire cirrhosis, though alcohol consumption is the main contributor in the US. The general phrase nonalcoholic cirrhosis is used to describe any liver scarring that isn’t due to alcohol consumption.
The liver is a hardy, adaptable organ. Even after being swamped with toxins and exposed to deadly microorganisms, it produces bile, cleanses blood, and keeps us alive. But the liver has its limitations as well. Some of the cells will develop into scar tissue if it sustains excessive injury over an extended period of time. Cirrhosis is the term for this. The liver will start to shut down if enough scar tissue grows, and serious consequences will develop. Cirrhosis may result in death if not properly treated.
What are the causes of cirrhosis in nonalcoholics?
Germ removal from the blood is one of the functions of the liver. The germs do, however, occasionally triumph. The leading cause of nonalcoholic cirrhosis in the US is a persistent hepatitis C virus infection. Scarring is typically not caused by infection for many years. Even so, cirrhosis only manifests in roughly 20% of chronic hepatitis C patients.
Cirrhosis can develop as a result of persistent hepatitis B infections. HBV is the most common cause of cirrhosis globally, but it’s rare in the US because of hepatitis B immunizations for children. Hepatitis A’s causing virus is never present for long enough to result in cirrhosis.
Another possible precursor to cirrhosis is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a disorder in which the liver develops inflammation and excess fat. Although the exact origin of NASH is unknown, the risk appears to be increased by obesity, diabetes, protein deficiency, heart disease, and corticosteroid medications.
Some people link immune system overactivity to cirrhosis. They create antibodies that, for unidentified reasons, assault liver cells as if they were invaders. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disorder in which the liver gets damaged and inflamed.
Other uncommon factors that can lead to cirrhosis include:
- Clogged or inflamed bile ducts,
- Severe adverse reactions to drugs or nutritional supplements like methotrexate or vitamin A,
- Recurrent heart failure, and inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis,
- Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency,
- Hemochromatosis, and
- Wilson’s disease.
There is no known etiology of cirrhosis in up to 10% of patients. These conditions are known as “cryptogenic cirrhosis” by doctors. But more and more scientists believe that many of these cases are actually brought on by NASH.
What signs and symptoms are present in nonalcoholic cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is a condition that could be incapacitating, whether it is caused by a virus or a drink bottle. At first, you most likely won’t have any symptoms, but as the damage worsens, you’ll start to feel weak and worn out. Along with losing weight, you could also experience nausea and appetite loss. Men can experience erectile dysfunction, lose their libido drive, and experience painfully swollen breasts, while some women experience the unexpected cessation of menstruation.
You can notice a yellowing of your skin and eyes as scarring gets worse (jaundiced). Pruritis, a disorder that causes extreme itching of the skin, is another possibility. Ascites is an abdominal swelling that can be caused by backed-up fluids, and blood vomiting can be caused by internal bleeding. You may have an increased sensitivity to your medications and a greater susceptibility to negative effects because the liver is involved in the breakdown of many medications. And if toxins that the liver normally eliminates start to build up in the brain, you could start to lose your memory, become unresponsive, and lose interest in how you look.
Nonalcoholic cirrhosis: How is it identified?
By checking the levels of specific enzymes in your blood, your doctor can identify liver impairment. An ultrasound or CT scan can frequently identify the type of injury if the enzyme levels are high. In order to make a diagnosis and assess the severity of the injury, doctors can take a little sample of tissue (biopsy) with a needle if there is still any doubt.
What is the treatment for nonalcoholic cirrhosis?
By focusing on the source, doctors can sometimes halt the progression of cirrhosis. Antiviral medications, for example, can control chronic hepatitis B and C infections, while medications that suppress the immune system frequently work to treat autoimmune hepatitis.
No of what led to your cirrhosis, you and your doctor should place a high focus on keeping your liver healthy. You should first and foremost abstain from drinking. Additionally, you might need to stop taking your drugs altogether or lower the amount. Make sure your doctor is aware of all medications you use, including over-the-counter medicines, herbal cures, and dietary supplements, as many herbs can harm the liver. Eating a nutritious, healthy diet will help your liver in its recovery process.
Many people with cirrhosis can still enjoy active lives with the right care, especially if the disease is detected in its early stages. However, not all patients can tolerate the harm. A liver transplant can be your greatest chance of survival if serious issues start to develop or if your liver completely fails. You stand a decent chance of recovering after the new liver is implanted. Patients who have had liver transplants have a 75% five-year survival rate. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of livers, there can be a long waiting list, and not every patient is healthy enough to tolerate the procedure.