Cirrhosis means severe scarring of the liver.When normal liver tissue is damaged, it changes into scar tissue or fibrosis. This scar tissue can reduce blood flow through the liver, making it difficult for the liver to carry out functions that are essential for life and health.
Many people believe that cirrhosis indicates a history of alcohol abuse, but this is not necessarily true. Many diseases and conditions may potentially cause severe scarring of the liver, including—but not limited to— alcohol abuse. A normal liver has no damage or scar
tissue. As damage caused by disease progresses, liver cells die and turn into scar cells. Initially, only minimal scarring or fibrosis is present (stage 1). Fibrosis can
advance to stage 2, then to stage 3, and ultimately to stage 4 or cirrhosis.Cirrhosis rarely causes signs and symptoms in its early
stages.When liver function deteriorates, fatigue, exhaustion,nausea, weight loss, and swelling in the legs and abdomen may occur. Jaundice—a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes—and intense itching may develop as well. Cirrhosis has many causes (Table 2).
Alcohol is one of the most common causes of cirrhosis. It can directly injure healthy liver cells, so that these ells turn into scar tissue. Alcohol also brings damaging fat into the liver. In the United States alcohol is not the most common cause of cirrhosis. Fatty liver disease not
associated with alcohol use, known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, is the leading cause of liver disease in this country. Infection with viruses such as hepatitis C
(HCV) and hepatitis B (HBV) can also lead to cirrhosis. In addition, a number of inheritable conditions, such as hereditary hemochromatosis and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and autoimmune conditions, such as primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, can lead to cirrhosis
What are the complications of cirrhosis?
Many people with cirrhosis have no signs or symptoms at all and feel quite well. In this condition, which is known as compensated cirrhosis, even though the liver is severely scarred, there are enough healthy cells within the scarred liver to perform all the necessary functions of a noncirrhotic liver. Most people with compensated cirrhosis remain in this condition for life and do not develop further complications of liver disease. Over time, some people with compensated cirrhosis progress to decompensated cirrhosis. In this condition the liver is no longer capable of performing all its normal functions. Complications that people with decompensated cirrhosis may experience include bleeding varicose veins (varices) in the esophagus or stomach, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), and confusion due to the liver’s inability to clear toxins from the blood (hepatic encephalopathy).