Budd-Chiari syndrome is a disorder that primarily affects the blood. It can affect people of both sexes and all races, though it is slightly more common in women. Budd-Chiari syndrome also has an impact on the life expectancy of the sufferer. This article explains about the causes and symptoms of Budd-Chiari syndrome before moving on to detail the way in which it affects human life expectancy.

What causes Budd-Chiari syndrome?

Budd-Chiari syndrome does not refer to any one specific illness. Rather, it is a name that has been given to a syndrome (and a set of symptoms) that can arise from numerous types of disease. A sufferer of Budd-Chiari syndrome will usually thus have a pre-existing condition that later develops, or resolves itself, into Budd-Chiari syndrome. Conditions that can be risk factors for Budd-Chiari syndrome are those related to the blood and kidneys. These include chronic infections such as syphilis and TB, haematological disorders such as sickle cell disease or excess red blood cells and inflammatory diseases such as IBS and sarcoidosis. Some tumors can also lead to Budd-Chiari syndrome, whilst some patients find that they develop Budd-Chiari syndrome after injury, a pregnancy or taking oral contraceptives. In short, there are several causes of Budd-Chiari syndrome and these are just some of the key ones.

What are the symptoms of Budd-Chiari syndrome?

Budd-Chiari syndrome causes the veins in the body to become more and more blocked, particularly affecting the veins connected to the liver. This syndrome usually emerges in adulthood, which makes sense given that it arises from pre-existing conditions that usually develop after childhood such as IBS. Symptoms of Budd-Chiari syndrome tend to develop over several weeks or even months, progressively worsening. These symptoms are primarily inflammatory, with patients experiencing an increase of fluid in the abdomen and a build up of blood in the liver due to impeded blood flow to this organ. In their turn, these symptoms cause abdominal pain, nausea, liver enlargement and later liver failure, impairment of cognitive function (for instance, feelings of confusion), fatigue and other issues related to developing failure of the liver. When death occurs as a result of this syndrome, it can be preceded by a coma resulting from liver failure.

Does Budd-Chiari syndrome limit life expectancy?

If left untreated, Budd-Chiari syndrome can be fatal within around 3 years. Fatalities are almost always due to liver failure. If treated, however, sufferers of Budd-Chiari syndrome can survive for up to a decade (with around 2/3 of patients reaching the 10 year survival mark). Currently, medics find that they cannot completely eradicate the symptoms of Budd-Chiari syndrome so these symptoms will usually last until the end of the patient's life. Common treatments include administering anticoagulants (medicines that prevent blood clots) and diuretics (medicines which prevent the build up of fluids in the abdomen) and restricting the amount of sodium in the patient's diet. If a vein to the liver is severely blocked and liver failure is imminent, a total liver transplant is another option.