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What is Laennec's Cirrhosis?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Laennec's cirrhosis is another name for alcoholic liver disease. The name comes from a famous French doctor named Thophile Hyacinthe Laennec, who was also an expert on tuberculosis. Laennec's cirrhosis generally tends to progress in stages, and each stage is usually more dangerous than the last. When the liver starts to fail because of alcohol abuse, all sorts of major body functions will generally start to malfunction along with it. The disease can potentially kill a person if it is not treated appropriately and quickly.

Some people can drink constantly without developing liver problems, but for others, their livers will gradually become inflamed. This inflammation is called hepatitis, and it is usually the first step on the road to Laennec's cirrhosis. Over time, all this inflammation can gradually cause a buildup of scar tissue in a person’s liver. This causes the liver to become hard and start functioning very poorly—a hardening of the liver caused by scar tissue is known as cirrhosis. Once this damage is done, it can’t generally be undone, although the person may be able to implement some lifestyle changes that can help avoid further damage and prolong life expectancy.

The symptoms of Laennec's cirrhosis are often extremely varied, partly because the liver does so many important things for a person’s body. The best-known symptom is probably jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin caused by the liver’s failure to clean toxins from a person’s blood. Other common symptoms include blackened stool, weakness, fatigue, and dryness of the mouth and throat. People may find that they have no appetite, and they might have a hard time mentally keeping track of things going on around them. Eventually, people may start to vomit, and sometimes this vomit can include digestive blood, which looks a bit like brown sand or coffee.

When trying to treat Laennec's cirrhosis, experts suggest that the first and most important step is to stop any kind of drinking immediately. This can help protect the liver from further damage. If this is not done, the disease will often continue to progress, and the person may die. Even if the individual abstains from any further alcohol consumption, his or her life expectancy might still be shortened by the damage that has already occurred. Stopping can potentially make a big difference, but this is often more difficult for some people than for others because of the addictive nature of alcohol.

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Discussion Comments
By kentuckycat — On Aug 24, 2011

@cardsfan27 - Hepatitis is a general term for an inflammation of the liver. I'm not an expert, so I don't know what the difference is between A, B, and C. I do know you can be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, so my guess would be that it isn't involved in cirrhosis.

I've also heard that Hepatitis C can be spread in the form of an STD. I don't know how Hepatitis A is carried. It could also be that these are just special versions of inflammation, and cirrhosis doesn't relate to any of them. Maybe someone else can help out with that one.

I'm wondering, though, once someone develops cirrhosis, what is the difference in life expectancy if they stop drinking or continue to drink? Are there any other liver cirrhosis treatments available?

By cardsfan27 — On Aug 23, 2011

@stl156 - There actually is another kind of cirrhosis called biliary cirrhosis that is not caused by alcohol. Like Laennec's, it is characterized by scarring of the liver, but it is because of problems with bile ducts.

The article says that cirrhosis starts with hepatitis. I know there are three different kinds of hepatitis (A, B, and C). Does this fall into one of those categories, or is hepatitis a general term for any sort of liver condition?

By stl156 — On Aug 23, 2011

@Izzy78 - Like you and the article said, there are a lot of factors that go into who develops cirrhosis and how long it takes. I think most of the time, people who start to see cirrhosis symptoms have been drinking very heavily for about ten years. I can tell you genetics play into whether someone is prone to becoming an alcoholic, but I don't know if it affects whether they develop cirrhosis.

As for intake, the general rule I have always heard is the 1, 2, 3 rule. You should only drink 1 serving of alcohol an hour, no more than 2 per day if you drink regularly (4+ times per week), and no more than 3 if you drink rarely (less than 4 times a week). Following those rules should give your body enough time to process the drink.

How many stages are there to Laennec's cirrhosis, and what are they? Once the stages start, will they automatically keep progressing through, or will abstaining from alcohol help keep you at the current stage? Also, are there any other types of cirrhosis besides Laennec's? Is cirrhosis always caused by alcohol?

By Izzy78 — On Aug 21, 2011

The article says that it could vary, but in general, how much alcohol would you have to drink on a daily basis to develop cirrhosis?

I have heard stories about people being able to drink entire bottles of liquor every day. I'm sure at that stage of alcoholism there would be significant damage to the liver already, not to mention the kidneys, heart, and other organs.

I think alcohol is usually considered more dangerous if you are drink large amounts in a short period of time instead of drinking a little every day. That is why binge drinking is so dangerous. If you want to drink responsibly, what are the recommended limits for a day or week?

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