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Cirrhosis is a liver disease that is generally divided into two stages: compensated and decompensated. Compensated cirrhosis means the liver still works relatively well despite any scarring, or fibrosis. People with this type of cirrhosis generally experience mild or no symptoms, but they should still be treated. If compensated cirrhosis does not get treated early, it can lead to the more serious decompensated cirrhosis. Risk factors include lifestyle and contributing health problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and C, and inflammatory bowel disease.
According to medical sources, the word cirrhosis comes from the Greek term scirrhus and refers to the medical condition that leaves brown or orange spots on the liver. Compensated cirrhosis is generally the early stage of liver cirrhosis, or chronic liver disease. A person with this stage of cirrhosis likely has liver scarring or discoloration, but the liver still generates enough healthy cells to function normally.
Some people with compensated cirrhosis experience no symptoms, and they may live for several years before experiencing any type of liver-related illness or liver failure. Others with the early stage of the disease may experience fatigue, low energy, abdominal pain, nausea, weight loss and a loss of appetite. Patients may also develop spider angiomas, or small red spots on the skin.
Lifestyle factors and underlying health problems tend to cause compensated cirrhosis. Heavy alcohol use usually leads to the liver disease over time. Other culprits that put people at risk include nonalcoholic fatty liver disease caused by eating a high-fat diet as well as hepatitis B and C, which inflame the liver cells. People with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma or inflammatory bowel disease may also develop the liver disease.
Treatment for the condition often requires HCV antiviral therapy, which includes medications that are generally used to treat similar conditions, such as hepatitis C. Medications do not cure liver scarring; they work to slow down the progression of the disease.
If left untreated, the liver can deteriorate and progress to decompensated, or late-stage, cirrhosis. Symptoms in this case include jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, and fluid buildup in the abdomen, legs, and feet. Doctors usually evaluate the patient's medical history and conduct a physical examination followed by a blood test, an imaging test and a liver biopsy to diagnosis the stage of cirrhosis.
Changes in lifestyle habits can also reduce the risk of liver failure or other complications. Reducing salt intake and eating more healthful foods reduces the fluid buildup often associated with cirrhosis. Patients must stop drinking alcohol altogether to avoid further liver scarring. Medications such as ibuprofen and herbal supplements such as kava kava reportedly cause fibrosis, so it is best to seek a doctor's advice before taking them.