Liver Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.
~Dr. Raghav Thukral

Overview

Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.

Each time your liver is injured — whether by disease, excessive alcohol consumption or another cause — it tries to repair itself. In the process, scar tissue forms. As cirrhosis progresses, more and more scar tissue forms, making it difficult for the liver to function (decompensated cirrhosis). Advanced cirrhosis is life-threatening.

The liver damage done by cirrhosis generally can’t be undone. But if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the cause is treated, further damage can be limited and, rarely, reversed.

Symptoms

Cirrhosis often has no signs or symptoms until liver damage is extensive. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Easily bleeding or bruising
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in your legs, feet or ankles (edema)
  • Weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites)
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
  • Redness in the palms of the hands
  • For women, absent or loss of periods not related to menopause
  • For men, loss of sex drive, breast enlargement (gynecomastia) or testicular atrophy
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of the signs or symptoms listed above.

Causes

A wide range of diseases and conditions can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis.Some of the causes include:

  • Chronic alcohol abuse
  • Chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis B, C and D)
  • Fat accumulating in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • Iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Copper accumulated in the liver (Wilson’s disease)
  • Poorly formed bile ducts (biliary atresia)
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Inherited disorders of sugar metabolism (galactosemia or glycogen storage disease)
  • Genetic digestive disorder (Alagille syndrome)
  • Liver disease caused by your body’s immune system (autoimmune hepatitis)
  • Destruction of the bile ducts (primary biliary cirrhosis)
  • Hardening and scarring of the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Infection, such as syphilis or brucellosis
  • Medications, including methotrexate or isoniazid

Risk factors

  • Drinking too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cirrhosis.
  • Being overweight. Being obese increases your risk of conditions that may lead to cirrhosis, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
  • Having viral hepatitis. Not everyone with chronic hepatitis will develop cirrhosis, but it’s one of the world’s leading causes of liver disease.

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