Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions due to chronic injury. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Scarring also impairs the liver's ability to:
- control infections
- remove bacteria and toxins from the blood
- process nutrients, hormones, and drugs
- make proteins that regulate blood clotting
- produce bile to help absorb fats -including cholesterol-and fat-soluble vitamins
A healthy liver is able to regenerate most of its own cells when they become damaged. With end-stage cirrhosis, the liver can no longer effectively replace damaged cells. A healthy liver is necessary for survival.
Cirrhosis has various causes. In the United States, heavy alcohol consumption and chronic hepatitis C have been the most common causes of cirrhosis. Obesity is becoming a common cause of cirrhosis, either as the sole cause or in combination with alcohol, hepatitis C, or both. Many people with cirrhosis have more than one cause of liver damage.Cirrhosis is not caused by trauma to the liver or other acute, or short-term causes of damage. Usually years of chronic injury are required to cause cirrhosis.Most people who consume alcohol in moderation do not suffer damage to the liver. But heavy alcohol use over several years can cause chronic injury to the liver. The amount of alcohol it takes to damage the liver varies greatly from person to person. For women, consuming two to three drinks – including beer and wine – per day and for men, three to four drinks per day, can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis.
Many people with cirrhosis have no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. However, as the disease progresses, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- loss of appetite
The diagnosis of cirrhosis is usually based on the presence of a risk factor for cirrhosis, such as alcohol use or obesity, and is confirmed by a physical examination by one of our board certified physicians, blood tests, and imaging. Your physician will ask about your medical history and symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination to observe for clinical signs of the disease.