Liver Disease: It’s Another Way Of Saying Liver Cirrhosis
What is liver cirrhosis?
Liver cirrhosis is is a complication that affects one of the body’s primary organs of elimination: The liver. It is characterized by structural and functional abnormality of the liver. Diseases leading to liver cirrhosis cause it on account of the fact that they can injure or kill healthy liver cells; this cell death results in inflammation and scar tissue. In an attempt to replace the dead liver cells, new cells form and multiply, creating clusters within the scar tissue. There are numerous causative factors which may be involved in liver cirrhosis, including genetically based toxic metal accumulation, viruses, alcohol, drugs and autoimmune diseases which result in the body attacking the liver.
Why is liver cirrhosis so problematic?
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body; it’s functions are numerous and critical. Two of these functions are the production of substances required by the body – such as proteins required for blood clotting – and the filtering and removal of toxins that are harmful to the body. Aside from these two key functions, the liver helps to regulate glucose and fat that the body uses as fuel. To successfully perform these vital activities, the liver cells have to be healthy and work properly; they also must have a “good relationship” with the blood, because substances added to or removed by the liver go from the liver to the blood.
The liver receives only a minimal amount of blood from the arteries; most of its blood travels to it through the intestinal veins, on its way back to the heart – particularly through the “portal vein”. When this vein goes through the liver, it divides into many increasingly smaller veins. The smallest of these veins are called sinusoids, and are “in touch” with the liver cells. This “relationship” allows liver cells to perform their job of adding and removing substances from the blood. After the blood passes through these smallest offshoots of the portal vein, it returns to increasingly larger veins which end up forming a vein that goes to the heart (the “hepatic vein”).
In cases of liver cirrhosis, the important blood-and-liver-cell “relationship” described above is damaged. Though new liver cells carry the ability to add or remove substances to or from the blood, they lack the relationship with the blood that the previous cells had. Additionally, scarring found in cases of liver cirrhosis prevents the normal flow of blood into the liver and its cells. Blood then gets stuck and backs up in the portal vein, which causes an increase in pressure. This obstructed flow – and high venous pressure – causes the blood to seek other avenues with which to get back to the heart, which ultimately are veins with lower pressure than the normal route would entail. The liver cannot add or remove substances to or from blood which does not reach it.
Aside from an impaired relationship with the blood, liver cirrhosis can result in incorrect bile function. Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid, produced by the liver, which aids digestions, and helps to expel toxins from the body. Bile produced by liver cells goes into minuscule channels that run between the sinusoids and liver cells, which are called “canaiculi”. These empty out into smaller and then, progressively larger, ducts. Through these ducts, the bile gets into the small intestine, and helps to digest food. Simultaneously, toxins in the bile get eliminated, via the stool. But in cases of liver cirrhosis, the “relationship” between the liver and the canaliculi is ruined; thus, the liver cannot eliminate toxins properly, and digestion may be impaired. For a more thorough explanation of cirrhosis symptoms, click here. Liver cirrhosis is a serious disease and needs to be treated as soon as possible.