Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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In the final stages of liver disease, transplantation is warranted when the liver stops carrying out any of its designated roles. Unfortunately, it’s often at these later stages that patients become aware of their ill health. As the liver transitions from a functioning state to a non-functioning state, many patients report the same sign in their navel region.
Cirrhosis is medically identified in two stages; the compensated and decompensated phases.
In compensated cirrhosis, the liver is just about coping with the damage to the liver and is still able to carry out important functions.
In the decompensated stage of cirrhosis, however, the function of the liver is impaired, warranting liver transplantation of a new organ.
“Patients with cirrhosis can be asymptomatic or symptomatic depending on whether their cirrhosis is clinically compensated or decompensated,” explains the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.
“In compensated cirrhosis, patients are usually asymptomatic and their disease is detected incidentally by labs, physical exams, or imaging.
“On the other hand, patients with decompensated cirrhosis usually present with a wide range of signs and symptoms arising from a combination of liver dysfunction and portal hypertension.”
According to the health body, the diagnosis of ascites, jaundice, hepatic encephalopathy, variceal bleeding, or hepatocellular carcinoma in a patient with cirrhosis signifies the transition from a compensated to a decompensated phase of cirrhosis.
Many of the above symptoms are secondary to portal hypertension, which signifies higher-than-average pressure in the portal vein, which carries blood from the digestive tract to the liver.
The Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practices states: “Caput medusae and palmar erythema are cardinal signs in cirrhosis of [patients] with portal hypertension.”
In caput medusae, a network of large veins becomes visible around the abdomen, resembling bruising.
According to News Medical, the gastric veins tend to develop from the navel in the form of a “palm tree”.
The distended umbilical veins reflect circulatory issues, but the root cause of the condition is portal hypertension.
When blood flow slows down due to cirrhosis, the blood volume increases in the surrounding blood vessels, making them transform into varicose veins.
“This causes them to bulge out and become more visible under the skin,” explains WebMD.
“Varicose veins are also more fragile than typical veins and prone to bleeding,” adds the health body.
An acute haemorrhage from a ruptured caput medusae vein is among the rare complications of liver cirrhosis.
It is crucial to stop the bleeding promptly or a patient’s life could be put on the line.
Another vascular complication associated with portal hypertension due to cirrhosis is variceal bleeding.
According to the BMJ, approximately 30 to 50 percent of cirrhosis die “within six weeks of a first variceal bleed”.
Fortunately, proven measures for detecting liver disease have lowered the prevalence of caput medusae.
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