Learning About Cirrhosis

irrhosis is a condition that is characterized by scarring of the liver. The scarring is also known as fibrosis. Cirrhosis is often caused by diseases of the liver such as hepatitis and conditions like alcohol abuse. The condition is a slowly progressing disease in which the healthy tissue of the liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. Over time, this prevents the liver from functioning properly.


Unfortunately, cirrhosis is irreversible. However, if the condition is diagnosed and treated early, additional damage can be prevented. As cirrhosis gets worse, there is more scar tissue that forms. This makes it very hard for the liver to function. When cirrhosis develops into an advanced stage, the condition can become life-threatening.

Cirrhosis often has no signs or symptoms until liver damage is extensive. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, bleeding easily, bruising easily, itchy skin, yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes (aka jaundice), fluid accumulation in your abdomen (aka ascites), loss of appetite, nausea, swelling in your legs, weight loss, confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy), and spider-like blood vessels on the skin.

There are a number of things that may cause cirrhosis including various conditions and diseases of the liver. Knowing what caused cirrhosis is important because that can determine what the best treatment option is in order to help prevent further liver damage. Causes of cirrhosis that are inherited or thought to be inherited include iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis), cystic fibrosis, copper accumulated in the liver (Wilson's disease), poorly formed bile ducts (biliary atresia), inherited disorders of sugar metabolism (galactosemia or glycogen storage disease), genetic digestive disorder (Alagille syndrome), and liver disease caused by your body's immune system (autoimmune hepatitis).

Others causes of cirrhosis that often occur later in a person’s life include chronic alcohol abuse, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, fat accumulating in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease), destruction of the bile ducts (primary biliary cirrhosis), hardening and scarring of the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis), or an infection by a parasite common in developing countries (schistosomiasis).

Treatment for cirrhosis varies depending on what causes the condition. Early on, treatment options include treating the underlying conditions such as treatment for alcohol abuse, weight loss for cirrhosis caused by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, medications may control damage to liver cells caused by hepatitis B or C, or medications may slow the progression of certain types of liver cirrhosis. Advanced cirrhosis includes treating the complications such as excess fluid in the body, portal hypertension, infections, hepatic encephalopathy, or an increased risk for liver cancer. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be required.