Cirrhosis is a serious medical condition that occurs when scar tissue forms in the liver. This scar tissue can cause the liver to function poorly, leading to a buildup of toxins in the body. One of these toxins is ammonia, which can cause a range of symptoms and complications. In this article, we will discuss what normal ammonia levels are in cirrhosis, and what you can do to manage them.
Understanding Ammonia Levels in Cirrhosis
Ammonia is produced in the body when proteins are broken down. Normally, the liver is responsible for removing this ammonia from the body. However, in cirrhosis, the liver is damaged and may not be able to remove ammonia as effectively. This can lead to a buildup of ammonia in the blood, which can cause a range of symptoms including confusion, disorientation, and even coma.
What Are Normal Ammonia Levels?
Normal ammonia levels in the blood range from 15 to 45 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). However, in patients with cirrhosis, these levels can be higher. Some experts suggest that a level of 80 µg/dL or higher may indicate that the liver is not functioning properly.
What Are the Symptoms of High Ammonia Levels?
When ammonia levels in the blood are high, it can cause a range of symptoms including confusion, disorientation, and forgetfulness. In severe cases, it can even lead to coma or death. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, and difficulty concentrating.
How Are Ammonia Levels Measured?
To measure ammonia levels in the blood, a doctor will perform a blood test. This test is usually done in the morning, after the patient has fasted overnight. If ammonia levels are high, the doctor may order additional tests to determine the cause and severity of the cirrhosis.
Managing Ammonia Levels in Cirrhosis
There are several things that patients with cirrhosis can do to manage their ammonia levels. These may include:
Patients with cirrhosis should avoid foods that are high in protein, as these can increase ammonia levels in the blood. Instead, they should focus on a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat.
There are several medications that can help to lower ammonia levels in the blood. These may include lactulose, which helps to remove ammonia from the body, and rifaximin, which can reduce the production of ammonia in the intestines.
Patients with cirrhosis should avoid alcohol, as this can further damage the liver and increase ammonia levels in the blood. They should also aim to get plenty of rest and exercise regularly.
Cirrhosis is a serious medical condition that can lead to a range of complications, including high ammonia levels in the blood. However, by understanding what normal ammonia levels are in cirrhosis, and taking steps to manage them, patients can improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of complications. If you or a loved one has cirrhosis, be sure to speak with your doctor about the best ways to manage your ammonia levels.