What is cirrhosis of liver?

Liver cirrhosis is permanent liver damage caused due to the normal liver tissues being replaced by scar tissues. It affects 2.8 million people worldwide. In India, the condition is so serious that 10 lakh people are diagnosed every year in this country!

The problem with a disease like liver cirrhosis is that it is a lifestyle disease mostly, and so carries a prejudice among the middle class, though of course, the problem is much less severe than for diseases like STDs. There are a number of misconceptions regarding the disease. The primary one is that that it is caused by high alcohol consumption. Which is true, but liver cirrhosis may also occur in people, for example in children, due to Hepatitis B and C.

Here are some of the causes of liver cirrhosis:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Daily alcohol consumption over the prescribed limit (which is usually two drinks a day for men and one for women) increases the chances of contracting a liver disease by 30 per cent. Over the years, it leads to problems like fatty liver disease, fatty liver with inflammation, and finally, liver cirrhosis.

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

This is the condition in which fat accumulates in the liver due to causes other than alcohol consumption. In addition to bad eating habits, other causes for this are insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

  • Viral hepatitis

While Hepatitis A, the most common one, is mostly harmless, Hepatitis B can cause liver disease in some patients. The most severe among these is Hepatitis C, which can not only cause liver cirrhosis, but also liver cancer.

  • Genes

Some patients may inherit disorders from their family like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease which causes the patient to absorb more iron from their food. This iron can accumulate and harm not only the liver, but many other organs in the body.

  • Bile duct disease

The bile is a digestive fluid which is carried by the bile duct from the liver to the small intestine to aid in digestion. Due to damage or blockage of the bile duct, the accumulating bile in the liver can cause cirrhosis. This also means that those having gallstones and cystic fibrosis are at an increased risk. And finally, some babies are born without the bile duct.

  • Autoimmune hepatitis

This is a disease more common in women than in men, and it causes progressive inflammation of the liver, leading to progressive destruction of the liver cells, ultimately causing cirrhosis.

Liver cirrhosis has symptoms like feelings of constant fatigue, weakness, reduced appetite, mental confusion, dark urine, swelling in the lower oesophagus, jaundice, breast enlargement even in men, increased bruising, red palms, etc.

What are the complications associated with liver cirrhosis?

  • Bleeding in the oesophageal varices
  • Oedema and ascites
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis (SBP)
  • Hepatorenal syndrome
  • Hepatopulmonary syndrome
  • Liver cancer

The stages of liver cirrhosis are two- compensated cirrhosis and decompensated cirrhosis. While in the former healthy liver cells can compensate the liver cell damage, most of the symptoms mentioned above are in the decompensated liver cirrhosis stage. And liver transplantation is the only solution here.

Liver transplant is a highly regulated procedure, which also means that very few places in our country are equipped to deal with it. It also means that all those places are privately owned (except for high-end ones like AIIMS), and most importantly, they are beyond the means of the average middle-class person, let alone the poor. And this is where crowdfunding can help and give a fresh lease of life to those suffering from liver cirrhosis.

When you are setting up a crowdfunding campaign for a patient dealing with liver cirrhosis, try to humanize the patient as much as possible. There is a tendency among the middle class, who also incidentally form the largest chunk of the donors in India, to treat liver cirrhosis as something that the patient deserves because it is mostly regarded as the result of alcoholism. But then again, alcoholism is more of a social problem, and in spite of all the irresponsibility involved, that mentality too should be challenged.

Under such circumstances, it is very important to make the potential donors understand exactly what is at stake- the number of people dependant on the patient for their own survival, the degree of damage and the life expectancy, an exact evaluation of the patient’s financial situation, the amount needed for the treatment which also includes things like added medication in addition to the transplant costs, etc.

Collecting money for procedures as expensive as liver transplant is tricky, and yet many are known to benefit from it in the crowdfunding in India.

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