What Is Liver Fibrosis?
Learning what is liver fibrosis begins with understanding cirrhosis. Chronic liver disease is marked by the slow destruction of liver tissue. Both cirrhosis and fibrosis are associated with this disease. Cirrhosis is a consequence of the disease that is characterized by replacing liver tissue with scar tissue. These scar tissues are fibroids that lead to loss of liver function. Liver fibrosis is the growth of these tissues. These conditions can be caused by numerous things including alcohol abuse and hepatitis B. These conditions are irreversible, so treatment focuses primarily on stopping the progression and further complications.
The liver performs many functions including the storage of blood sugar in glycogen form, breaking down saturated fats and producing natural cholesterol, filtering harmful substances from the bloodstream, and producing bile that digests food. Liver fibrosis blocks blood flow and slows down all these processes. Liver fibrosis symptoms depend on the severity of the disease. Some mild cases may not show any symptoms or signs. Each case is different and symptoms will vary. The most common liver fibrosis symptoms include abdominal pain, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, dark urine, weakness, and weight loss. More serious symptoms include vomiting of blood, muscle loss, spider veins, gallstones, and ascites or fluid build up in the chest cavity. Other causes of liver fibrosis apart from alcoholism and Hepatitis C include chemical exposure, autoimmune diseases, malnutrition, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis.
Complications associated with liver fibrosis include variceal bleeding and hepatic encephalopathy. Variceal bleeding is caused when pressure builds up in the portal vein and causes a blockage of blood flow through the liver. Since the blood is blocked, it uses other routes like the stomach and esophagus to get around the blockage. This can lead to other conditions like excessive bleeding or bruising, changes in blood counts, and reduced oxygen in the blood.
Liver fibrosis is diagnosed through laboratory tests, liver functions tests, liver biopsy, CT scans, and ultrasounds. Laboratory tests are the first step and are used to determine liver function. Biopsy is used to remove a piece of the liver through needle and examine it up close with the use of a microscope. Liver fibrosis treatment depends on age, medical history, and overall health. A patients tolerance to medications and disease progression are also examined. If the condition has progressed to a severe case, a liver transplant is an option.
Since there is no cure for fibrosis of the liver, prevention starts with proper diet, avoiding toxins like alcohol, and the use of vitamin supplements. Further complications can be delayed if these practices are followed. Heavy drinkers are not the only ones at risk. Two drinks a day (5 oz of wine, 12 oz can of beer, or 1.5 oz of liquor) raises your risk. Avoiding unprotected sex and getting vaccinated for Hepatitis B lowers the risk as well as eating a well balanced diet consisting of low fat foods and vitamin. Understanding what is liver fibrosis and treatment are necessary.