Cirrhosis is when your liver has become scarred because of long-term damage. This can be brought on by the buildup of fat in the liver, also known as fatty liver disease, over the long term. It can stop your liver from working properly.
One consequence of cirrhosis is vomiting blood, known medically as haematemesis.
The blood comes from ruptures in the veins leaving your liver, known as the portal vein.
Cirrhosis slows down the flow of blood travelling through your liver, causing pressure on the walls of the blood vessels.
One of the reasons for this is because nitric oxide production is “significantly diminished”. Nitric oxide is a substance that causes the walls of your blood vessels to relax, letting more blood through, which lowers blood pressure.
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The walls may start to swell and eventually burst, known as varices.
The British Liver trust says: “Portal hypertension and its consequence of bleeding varices are usually seen in people with moderately advanced liver disease.
“There may be other features such as ascites (fluid in the stomach) and encephalopathy (disturbance of brain function as a result of disordered liver function).”
If you vomit blood, you should head to the hospital immediately as it is a medical emergency.
They may diagnose you with but it’s likely that you’ll already be aware that you have liver disease by this point.
“Initial treatment is to replace the fluid and then to identify and correct the cause of bleeding,” explains the charity.
“Not everyone who has varices and who bleeds will be bleeding from varices. They may be bleeding from another area in the digestive tract.”
The internal bleeding can also cause blood to seep into your stools, giving them a “tarry” black colour.
Other symptoms of cirrhosis include yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes and itchy skin.
Like vomiting blood, these signs are not normally visible in the early stages of cirrhosis.
NHS Inform says: “As cirrhosis doesn’t have many obvious symptoms during the early stages, it’s often picked up during tests for an unrelated illness.”
If you have fatty liver disease that has not yet progressed to cirrhosis, there are several things you can do to prevent it.
The health body adds: “Not exceeding the recommended limits for alcohol consumption is the best way of preventing alcohol-related cirrhosis.”
Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
People with cirrhosis are recommended to stop drinking entirely.
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