The liver is a vital organ responsible for many important functions, like cleaning the blood, aiding in digestion, and fighting infections. Several things can affect the health of your liver, and there are more than 4 million Americans living with some form of liver disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are several types of liver disease, and liver disease has many causes, including infections, inherited conditions, and lifestyle choices.
- Genetics. Some genetic disorders are known to cause liver disease. Hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are genetic liver diseases that can cause liver damage, according to Mayo Clinic.
- Infection. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of liver infection. Hepatitis causes inflammation that can affect healthy liver function.
- Cancer. Liver cancer and growths in the liver negatively impact the health of the liver.
- Immune disease. Autoimmune disease, where your immune system attacks an otherwise healthy part of the body, can harm your liver.
- Lifestyle choices. Alcohol abuse is a known cause of liver disease. Other risk factors for liver disease include obesity, exposure to some chemicals and toxins, type 2 diabetes, and the use of some prescription medications.
- Non Alcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLC). This is the most common form of liver disease in the United States. According to the Mayo Clinic, it affects about 25 percent of the population. It is unclear why some adults store too much fat in the liver, while others do not.
Sometimes, people with liver disease experience no signs or symptoms, especially in the early stages. The American Liver Foundation (ALF) states inflammation is the first step in the progression of liver disease, and this may cause your liver to become enlarged or tender. Often, patients feel no discomfort and are unaware their liver is inflamed. If liver disease is diagnosed and treated early, inflammation may go away. Untreated inflammation can lead to fibrosis.
Fibrosis and Cirrhosis
Fibrosis is when liver inflammation causes scarring, and excess scar tissue starts to replace healthy liver tissue. Again, if diagnosed and treated early, fibrosis can be reversed, and your liver can heal with time. If left untreated, fibrosis can lead to a more serious condition called cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis, according to the ALF, cannot be reversed. During this stage of liver disease, hard scar tissue begins to replace healthy liver tissue. Liver damage can be stopped or slowed with treatment, but healthy liver tissue cannot heal. Scar tissue cannot perform the same function as healthy liver tissue, and can prevent blood from flowing through your liver.
Signs of Liver Disease
Some general signs of liver disease include bruising easily, loss of appetite, yellowing (jaundicing) of the skin and/or eyes, abdominal pain and swelling, unusually dark urine, or swelling in the feet and ankles. If you or a loved one show signs of liver disease, consult a doctor.
In some patients, cirrhosis may be the first sign of liver disease. If left untreated, cirrhosis can lead to end stage liver disease (ESLD), liver cancer, and liver failure. One serious but lesser known complication of liver disease is an increased risk for intracerebral brain hemorrhaging.
Liver Disease and Bleeding of the Brain
Intracerebral hemorrhaging is a serious medical condition that occurs when a blood vessel inside the brain leaks or ruptures, causing blood to build up inside of the brain tissue. If untreated, intracerebral hemorrhaging can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, a potentially fatal condition that can cause permanent impairment and brain damage.
According to the American Stroke Association, hemorrhagic strokes account for about 13 percent of all strokes. A study in the journal BMC Gastroenterology found patients with cirrhosis have a, “clearly increased risk,” of experiencing an intracerebral hemorrhage. Intracerebral hemorrhages can be treated with surgery if medical attention is sought immediately. However, the prognosis for patients who suffer a hemorrhagic stroke is poor. The same study found that less than 50 of those who suffer a stroke were alive within 12 months.
If you or someone you love exhibits the following signs of intracerebral bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke, call 911 and seek treatment immediately:
- Severe and worsening headache
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Impaired motor function
- Vision impairment
Seek Legal Help From Pintas & Mullins Law Firm
If your loved one resides in a nursing home facility, you are putting your trust in the facility and its staff to care for them with vigilance and professionalism. Nursing home staff have a duty when it comes to your loved one’s care.
If your loved one suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage or hemorrhagic stroke, it was possibly caused by complications from liver disease. Negligence could have caused the signs of bleeding of the brain to go unnoticed, and therefore untreated. If you believe your loved one’s stroke was preventable, a lawyer may be able to help.