It’s not only heavy drinkers who get cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic cirrhosis is an umbrella term for cirrhosis – permanent scarring of the liver – caused by other factors aside from alcohol. According to CVS Health Resources.com, non-alcoholic cirrhosis is often caused by infection from hepatitis B or C, or excess fat in the liver.
The type of liver disease that is the leading cause of non-alcoholic cirrhosis is called non-alcoholic steatohepatisis (NASH). It’s similar to alcoholic liver disease, but it’s usually present in people who don’t drink.
In the first instance, any kind of cirrhosis may be asymptomatic. As scarring progresses, you may begin to feel extremely fatigued, and possibly nauseous. It’s not uncommon to go off your food, with the result that you lose weight. Okay, you may need to lose a few pounds, but losing it because of cirrhosis is not the most pleasant way to go about it.
The problem with early cirrhosis symptoms – whether due to alcohol or not – is that they are non-specific. In other words, they could equally be caused by any number of conditions, and there are no real pointers to indicate problems with the liver. When scarring is more pronounced, these symptoms may appear, and they are more indicative of cirrhosis.
Due to the scarring of the liver, it’s not uncommon for the skin and whites of the eyes to become jaundiced and take on a distinct yellow tinge. In addition, you may experience a constant and intense itching sensation all over the body. This condition is known as pruritis, and it’s a common feature of nonalcoholic cirrhosis. Patients may also notice that they tend to bruise more easily than normal. This is because the liver’s normal blood clotting mechanism is impaired by cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis causes the kidneys to retain salt and water in the body, and this can lead to swelling – or edema – in the legs and ankles. As the condition worsens, fluid is retained in the abdomen. This fluid is known as ascites, and it can cause pain and swelling in the abdomen, and also weight gain.
When cirrhosis is present, the patient may produce black, tarry stools. This indicates that there may be internal bleeding and, as the condition progresses, some people may vomit blood.
The liver is the body’s detoxification system, and if it’s not working properly due to cirrhosis, the patient may suffer confusion or even memory loss.
If you present with any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately. Non-alcoholic cirrhosis can be just as dangerous as alcoholic cirrhosis, and the result could be liver failure, unless the condition is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.