Muscular Cirrhosis: Management of Muscle Wasting In Chronic Liver Disease

Patient with physician performing clinical exercise

In order for people to accomplish their daily tasks, they need to be able to properly use their bodies utilizing bone, tissues, and muscles. Without these crucial parts of the body or if these are impaired, then the quality of life of individuals can greatly be reduced along with their overall satisfaction and wellness. As such, one very concerning health condition is known as muscular cirrhosis or wasting of muscles due to liver disease that is chronic. But what specifically is muscular cirrhosis and how can muscle wasting be managed for individuals suffering from chronic liver disease? In this article, we answer these questions and if you want to know more, read on and find out!

Muscular Cirrhosis: A General Overview

Muscular cirrhosis is the wasting of muscles due to liver disease. Wasting of muscles is also referred to as Sarcopenia which can also be viewed as severe depletion of the muscles. This abnormality in the muscles is common for people suffering from cirrhosis and can be a critical factor if and when patients decide to avail themselves of liver transplantation. Sarcopenia or muscle depletion for patients with cirrhosis occurs due to a number of factors. One major variable, however, is that when people have liver scarring (cirrhosis) the functions of the liver can get impaired leading to the body experiencing some form of problem in protein breakdown and synthesis.

Based on available medical data, an estimated 40 to 70% of patients suffering from liver scarring are at an increased risk for experiencing muscular cirrhosis or sarcopenia due to liver disease.

Muscular cirrhosis

What are the Other Possible Causes of Sarcopenia or Muscle Wasting?

Aside from cirrhosis and liver disease, sarcopenia or muscle wasting (sometimes also referred to as muscle atrophy) can be the result of several different factors. Listed below are some of these factors:

Poor nutrition

Poor nutrition can lead to various adverse conditions and one of them is muscle wasting. Experts point out that diets that have reduced lean protein intake along with low intake of veggies and fruits can result in muscle mass that is reduced. Muscle loss that is related to malnutrition can develop as a consequence of other health conditions that can reduce the body’s ability to properly have nutrients absorbed. These conditions include cancer, celiac disease, and IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. A complex metabolic condition known as cachexia can also contribute to weight loss that is extreme and also sarcopenia. This medical condition may be triggered by another condition that is underlying such as MS or multiple sclerosis, HIV, or cancer.

Age

As the person ages, their bodies will come up with reduced levels of protein which can aid the body in the promotion and development of muscles. This reduced protein levels can lead to the cells of the muscles shrinking. According to the US FDA, sarcopenia can affect up to one-third of individuals who are aged 60 years old. Aside from muscle mass that is reduced, sarcopenia can also cause other different symptoms such as reduced endurance, problems with mobility and movement, a balance that is poor, and frailty and weakness. Muscle mass loss or reduction can be considered a natural part of the process of aging. However, this can also increase injury risk and also reduce the quality of life of individuals.

Genes

SMA or spinal muscular atrophy is a form of the disorder that is genetic can lead to loss of cells of the motor nerves and result in muscle atrophy. There are different types of SMAs and they can be classified based on whether the SMA is linked to Chromosome 5 or if it is not linked at all. The first kind of SMA develops due to a genetic mutation in the genes of SMN1 found in chromosome 5. Another condition referred to as muscular dystrophy can occur due to a series of conditions that progress to loss of muscle mass and to general weakness. This kind of condition occurs when protein production genes become mutated. These mutations in the genes may be inherited but they may also happen in developing embryos.

Certain diseases or medical conditions

Aside from Cirrhosis, other medical conditions may also lead to the individual’s loss of muscle mass or to the progression of sarcopenia. Some of these medical conditions include:

  • ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: This is also referred to as Lou Gherig’s Disease and can lead to muscle and nerve damage
  • MS: This is a condition that is considered chronic and happens when the body’s own immune response launches an attack on the CNS (Central nervous system) leading to nerve fibers that are inflamed.
  • Arthritis: This condition happens due to joints that are inflamed which can result in stiffness and pain. Those afflicted with this disease can have their mobility severely reduced or limited and can further result in muscle atrophy and disuse.
  • Myositis: This condition happens when the muscles get inflamed. The resulting inflammation can lead to muscle pain and weakness. Myositis may develop after an autoimmune condition or after being infected with a virus.
  • Neurological issues: A condition or injury that can lead to nerve damage responsible for controlling the muscles can lead to a medical condition referred to as neurogenic atrophy of the muscles. Once this condition is present, the muscles stop getting contracted as they are no longer getting signals from the nerve.

Common Symptoms of Muscular Cirrhosis

The signs and symptoms of this condition can be quite different and varied depending on the severity and the cause of the loss of muscles. Some symptoms include preferring to be inactive, difficult balancing, weakness, one leg or arm that is smaller in size compared to the other.

Possible Management and Treatment Options

Below are some management and treatment options for muscular cirrhosis

  • Physical Therapy (different forms of exercises and stretches)
  • FES or Functional Electric stimulation (electrical impulses)
  • Ultrasound therapy that is focused
  • Surgery/ Surgical procedures

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