Fatty Liver Disease

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Cryptogenic cirrhosis is severe liver disease (cirrhosis) whose cause is unknown, which is the meaning of ‘cryptogenic’ It strikes people who are not alcoholic and who do not consume alcohol to excess. (Alcoholism and excessive alcohol consumption are a common cause of cirrhosis of the liver). Medical examinations fail to reveal the cause of the scarring of the liver.

It's possible that another and less serious disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also known as Hepatic steatosis, which is characterized by the buildup of fatty deposits in the liver, may be involved in generating cirrhosis when other causes are unknown. However, as the name implies, the exact cause is not identified in cases of cryptogenic cirrhosis. The illness strikes only a small percentage of the population, but is more common in people who are over sixty years of age.


The symptoms of cryptogenic cirrhosis are the same as those for cirrhosis whose cause is known, except of course that the cause cannot be identified with certainty. These include spider angiomata or spider nevi, which are vascular lesions exhibiting a "spider-like" pattern of a central arteriole surrounded by smaller vessel lesions (appearing in about 1/3 of cases); deformation of finger or toenails; mottling of the palm of the hand in speckles; inflammation of the periosteum of the long bones, which produces considerable pain; enlarged liver; jaundice; impotence or testicular atrophy in male patients; and many other symptoms.

Other symptoms of the disease are more general, including fatigue, overall weakness, weight loss, bloody stools, swelling of the abdomen. Continued below....

As the disease progresses, other symptoms and complications may appear including bruising and bleeding, hepatic encephalopathy (a pathology of the brain resulting from liver dysfunction, causing changes in sleep habits, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, or neglect of normal routines and personal appearance), and other severe complications of liver failure.

Prognosis and Treatment

Cirrhosis of the liver, regardless of the cause, is a very severe illness that is potentially fatal. Generally, the damage to the liver cannot be reversed. However, if caught before the damage progresses too far, it's possible to arrest the progress of the disease and prevent further damage through diet, exercise, and abstinence from alcohol.

The last is obviously indicated for alcoholic cirrhosis, but in fact it is recommended for cryptogenic or non-alcoholic cirrhosis as well, because alcohol intake will certainly risk further damage even if alcohol is not the cause of the cirrhosis to date. Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B are sometimes prescribed for cirrhosis sufferers who are at risk for these diseases. (Hepatitis is also a known cause of liver fibrosis and of cirrhosis of the liver.)

In severe cases, especially when liver failure occurs, a liver transplant may be necessary. The five-year survival rate for liver transplant recipients is now 80% in the United States. This makes it a fairly high-risk operation, and so not recommended except in severe cases of the disease. However, as survival without a functioning liver is impossible, the operation is obviously indicated when liver failure has occurred or is judged to be imminent.

Life Expectancy

If the disease is diagnosed and successfully treated before the damage becomes severe, life expectancy for the patient can be roughly the same as for someone with a healthy liver, as the damage must be quite severe before it becomes life-threatening. However, liver damage is always serious and should be taken seriously. The liver is a very complex organ with multiple important functions. Survival without a functioning liver is impossible long-term, although it is possible to use liver dialysis to survive short-term while waiting for a transplant.

Cryptogenic Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the Liver Informational Video