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Symptoms of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the liver is the diagnosis given when the liver becomes scarred and the functional tissue of the liver is decreased. This means there are fewer cells taking care of all the functions of the liver. Thus, the rate of nutrient processing, hormone creation, drug detoxification and toxin removal slows down remarkably. About 30,000 people die from cirrhosis each year in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There are two stages of cirrhosis - the early stages and the end stages. The end stages could lead to death. Here's a synopsis of these two stages below.

Early Phases
There's still time to turn back the hands of time to the time when someone didn't have cirrhosis if you catch it in the early stages. However, you must be proactive. Don't think that it will happen on its own.

Early Phases of Cirrhosis
Here are the symptoms that occur in the early phases of cirrhosis:

Scar tissue forming in the liver (seen with a biopsy)

End Phases of Cirrhosis
Here are the symptoms that occur in the later phases of cirrhosis:

No appetite to eat even foods you love
Stools are not brown but rather are clay-colored
Bloody stool
Itchy skin
Swelling in the ankles
Swelling in the legs
Swelling in the abdomen, called ascites from bacterial infections that attack the peritoneal lining
Variceal bleeding
Weight loss without trying
Bleeding, due to the liver's inability to handle the production of clotting factors
Urine appears dark colored, either orange or brown
Urination is less than normal
Yellowed skin and whites of the eyes
Confusion or disorientation
Changes in personality
Kidney failure
Liver transplant
Hepatic encephalopathy
Liver cancer
Enlarged spleen

From this symptoms list, you will see that there are very few symptoms in the early stages of cirrhosis. When the condition progresses, that's when all the symptoms come. Ascites is when the abdomen enlarges so much that breathing may be affected. It occurs when albumin levels are too low and when the pressure in the liver's blood vessels is high.

The type of kidney damage that occurs is reflected in the dark urine, urinating less than usual, swelling of the abdomen, jaundiced skin, confusion, nausea and vomiting. These changes occur because the kidneys are not getting their usual blood flow. As a result, they cut back on their own blood flow.

The veins enlarge as an adaptation to the high pressure in the portal arteries. This may occur in the esophagus or the stomach. This is called the production of varices. The walls of the affected blood vessels become thin and twist, appearing as a snake. The stools may turn black when this happens because there is internal bleeding.

Encephalopathy of the liver also occurs because of a buildup of toxins that should have been detoxified but weren't due to the inability of the liver to detoxify itself. One of them is ammonia, and when it accumulates in the brain, it can lead to confusion, personality changes, and coma. Even death may result.

If cirrhosis occurred from hepatitis C, cancer of the liver may also occur.

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