Portal hypertension is an increase in the pressure within the portal vein (the vein that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver). The increase in pressure is caused by a blockage in the blood flow through the liver.
Increased pressure in the portal vein causes large veins (varices) to develop across the esophagus and stomach to get around the blockage. The varices become fragile and can bleed easily.
- The main cause of portal hypertension is cirrhosis. This is a scarring of the liver. It can result from several conditions such as hepatitis(an inflammatory disease) or alcohol abuse.
- Autoimmune diseases of the liver such as autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and primary biliary cholangitis also are causes of cirrhosis and portal hypertension.
- Whenever your liver is harmed, it attempts to heal itself. This causes scar tissue to form. Too much scarring makes it harder for your liver to do its job.
- Gastrointestinal bleedingis often the first sign of portal hypertension. Black, tarry stools can be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding. You may also actually see blood in your stools.
- Another symptom is ascites, which is a buildup of fluid in your belly. You may notice that your belly is getting bigger because of ascites. The condition can also cause cramps, bloating, and shortness of breath.
- As well, becoming forgetful or confused could be a result of a circulation problem related to your liver.