What Is the Life Expectancy of Liver Cirrhosis?

If you are curious with the life expectancy of liver cirrhosis, maybe there is no definite answer. It depends on many factors; check them here.

One well-known degenerative disease of the liver is called Cirrhosis. This is when the liver’s healthy cells are replaced by scar tissue. Often this is from living with chronic hepatitis or prolonged alcohol abuse. When the healthy cells give way to scar tissue, the organ loses function. With severe damage, you can go into liver failure and possibly die. This leads plenty to ask, “How long can you live with liver cirrhosis?”

How Long Can You Live with Cirrhosis of the Liver?

Cirrhosis is a serious disease and causes slow, degenerative damage to your liver. Two major types exist, called decompensated and compensated cirrhosis of the liver. Compensated is when your liver can sustain damage and still perform the main functions. With this diagnosis, life expectancy is good. When in decompensated cirrhosis, your liver doesn’t take care of main functions. Because the important functions aren’t covered, serious complications like renal failure can happen. This will cause ascites, blood when coughing, mental status change (encephalopathy) and infections.

How long can you live with cirrhosis of the liver? Generally, those who have liver cirrhosis have shorter life spans. It is hard to predict life expectancy exactly with those suffering from cirrhosis, because the cause of the disorder is highly variable. Other variables include percentage of cirrhosis, responsiveness to treatment, and degree of liver reserve. These variables can also affect life expectancy of the patient. Those who have compensated cirrhosis tend to live longer without a liver transplant. Those who have decompensated cirrhosis and complications, have less optimistic prognosis.

The stage of cirrhosis, even with decompensated cirrhosis, affects life expectancy. Patients with stage 4 cirrhosis, known as End-Stage, have complete damage and their only life expectancy option is liver transplant. With some, particularly those with severe symptoms, transplant may not even help.

How long can you live with cirrhosis of the liver? Here are some tools to figure the prognosis of one with liver cirrhosis. They grade according to the severity of the cirrhosis.

There are three major types of cirrhosis. These are Type A, B and C. There are five symptoms used in scoring liver disease, they range from 1 forward. These include clinical symptoms such encephalopathy, and ascites. Blood tests are recommended, including those for clotting, albumin, and bilirubin. The score for cirrhosis determines the types, such as:

  • Class A is relatively mild liver cirrhosis. Those with class A and a 5-6 score usually have a life expectancy predicted at 15-20 years.
  • Class B is still considered mild liver cirrhosis. Those in this class with a point score of 7-9 tend to have a life expectancy between 6-10 years.
  • Class C is the most severe class of liver cirrhosis. Those with this class have a prognosis of just 1-3 years.

Therefore, Class A and B are considered low to moderate risk with a better prognosis than Class C liver cirrhosis.

The other system of measurement is called MELD or model of end-stage liver disease. This determines which patients need liver transplant. Blood tests for creatinine, bilirubin and clotting are used.

Generally, with any system, the higher the score, the shorter the life expectancy the patient can expect.

There has been some improvement with liver transplant, therefore improving life expectancy. Even considering the improvements, liver transplant is not available in all cases. Some reasons are:

  • Available livers for transplant is limited.
  • The procedure is expensive.
  • Liver transplantation is a particularly hard surgery, and a long process so if someone is too weak, they can’t have one.
  • Immunosuppressants have side effects.
  • Liver transplants may work well for some but just not work for other patients with liver damage.

How to Manage Liver Cirrhosis

There are some lifestyle changes you can utilize, as well as medications to help with underlying causes, preventing your cirrhosis of the liver from getting worse. It can help to reduce additional problems.

Lifestyle Changes

There are many things you can do to improve your health and reduce your risk of having further trouble.

  • Limit and avoid alcohol, particularly if your cirrhosis is related to alcohol.
  • If you have weight to lose, get it off.
  • Exercise regularly to avoid wasting of your muscles.
  • Keep up good hygiene practices so you reduce infection risk.
  • Talk to your doctor about vaccinations you might need.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications and how they may affect your cirrhosis.

Dietary Change

  • Those with cirrhosis commonly have malnutrition. Be sure to get a balanced diet so you get the most nutrients.
  • Reduce your sodium intake to help reduce the risk of swelling in the stomach and feet. If your liver is damaged, it may also mean it can’t store glycogen, important to short-term energy.
  • In this state, the body will use muscle tissue for energy between meals, leading to weakness and muscle wasting. This may mean you need more protein and extra calories in your diet.
  • Health snacks between meals are important and should include protein. Taking three or four meals in every day is helpful.

Medication

If you are on medicine for your liver, it usually treats the cause of the cirrhosis. This may be anti-virals for your hepatitis, etc.

Ease Your Symptoms

There are some things you can do to help ease symptoms, such as:

  • Avoid salt or add some diuretics to reduce the fluid your body stores.
  • High blood pressure tablets, specifically for your main liver vein.
  • Anti-itching creams.

Managing Complications

With advanced liver cirrhosis, complications can need treatment as well.

Swollen Veins in the Esophagus

  • If you’re vomiting blood or it’s in your stool, your gullet veins, the ones that carry food from throat to stomach, may be swollen, therefore leaking blood. This is called esophageal varices.
  • Seek urgent medical attention if this occurs. Go to your doctor or the nearest emergency room immediately.
  • An endoscopy may be used for diagnosis. There can be a number of treatments offered to reduce swelling and stop the bleeding. You may be put on beta-blockers, such as carvedilol or propranolol, reducing bleeding risk.

Fluid in Legs and Tummy

  • You can experience a build-up of fluid in your legs or stomach, because of liver cirrhosis. It is common to see this fluid retention in your ankles.
  • For this you need to take diuretics and cut salt in your diet.
  • If your stomach fluid becomes infected, you could be put on antibiotics. In some cases, the fluid will have to be drained.

Encephalopathy

Those with cirrhosis can develop other problems such as brain function (encephalopathy). This can cause symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion and trouble concentrating. This will happen because the liver isn’t clearing out toxins.

The common encephalopathy is lactulose syrup. This is used as a laxative and clears out built up toxins. Some patients are given Rifaximin for resistant cases.

Bleeding

Liver cirrhosis can make blood clotting more difficult, putting you at risk should you cut yourself. Plasma and vitamin K can be used in emergencies. You will also need to apply pressure to the cut. Make sure to get specialist advice before any procedures, even dental work.

Liver Transplant

If your liver is severely damaged by scarring, it may stop functioning completely. In this case, liver transplant is your only solution. This is major surgery, taking out the diseased liver and placing a healthy one in. You will likely have a wait, because there will be other people on the list. If you are still drinking, you can not have a liver transplant.

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