Cirrhosis in Women
September 4, 2019
Why women may be more susceptible to get cirrhosis than men, even if they don’t drink?
It is often expected that men are more likely to get cirrhosis than women because of the assumption that men’s alcohol intake is much higher than women. The fact is that, women are at higher risk of developing cirrhosis even if they drink half the quantity of alcohol as men do.
Women, as they age may be at risk of developing cirrhosis even if they don’t drink. And thus, need to be more careful about their liver health.
Cirrhosis in young women:
It may surprise you to note that young womenin their teens and early 20’s may suffer from cirrhosis. Autoimmune Hepatitis is one such liver disease which is very common in young women than men. Autoimmune hepatitis affects women at very young age.In this condition, your body’s own immune system attacks your liver cells resulting in abdominal pain, jaundice, fatigue, weight loss and disabling joint pain. This is a chronic condition and may last for years. Undiagnosed or untreated autoimmune hepatitis may progress to cirrhosis.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, a slow progressing disease is another very common liver disease in women. This condition affects women in their late 40’s and 50’s. This condition may have symptoms like itching and fatigue causing weakness in women. Like autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis may develop in younger women than in men.
These two autoimmune disorders may affect a woman at the same time. They are not curable, but can be treated. Reason being unknown why these disorders affect young women, it is believed that sex hormones like estrogen, genetic and environmental factors play a role. If not treated, over time these patients could develop cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure and may require liver transplant.
Another liver disorder affecting pregnant young women is intrahepatic cholestasis. This is caused due to bile build up in the liver during pregnancy and with time it may have adverse affects on the liver causing gallstones, complications from gallstones and cirrhosis.
Liver Disease in Women after Menopause:
After menopause, women may have negative effect on the liver due to absence of estrogen.
In women, fatty liver disease may rapidly lead to cirrhosis after menopause. The fat deposits in the liver can be due to excess alcohol intake or due to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
After menopause, women are more likely to suffer from fatty liver disease. The tendency to gain weight increases due to hormonal changes and also due to lack of exercise in women after menopause. When women start gaining weight, fat gets accumulated in the liver cells creating a toxic atmosphere in the liver and causes fibrosis, cirrhosis or liver cancer. Fatty liver is soon becoming a more common reason for liver transplantation.
Cirrhosis Related to Alcohol/Drug Use:
Women’s body composition makes them more susceptible to have alcohol/drug related liver diseases than in men. Due to the smaller size of body, women have more body fat due to which the metabolization of alcohol/drug is at slower rate than in men. So, at a lower dose also drugs can have negative effect on the woman’s liver than in men.
This indicates that, alcohol intake of women must be lesser than men to keep the liver healthy. Also, asthey are more likely to have drug toxicity than men, women ought to be cautious about the drugs they take including pain killers, antibiotics etc. and the intake quantity.
Protect yourself from cirrhosis:
Cirrhosis is a chronic condition and you may have not known until it reaches an irreversible condition. As cirrhosis may develop a fatal stage, liver transplantation is the only suggested treatment.
Unlike few unavoidable factors such as genetics, switching to a healthy lifestyle may help reduce the risk of liver disease at any age.
- Women should limit alcohol, even if you are young and healthy.
- Prefer a healthy diet which includes unsaturated fats such as fish, nuts and olive oil.
- Include exercise in your daily routine which will help you fight the weight gain related to menopause.
- Avoid non prescribed drugs and over use of prescribed drugs which may lead to viral hepatitis and eventually to cirrhosis.
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