Cirrhosis: Basic Information


Cirrhosis occurs in response to damage of your liver. According to the National Institutes of Health, cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death by disease. Here are some further details about cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis is a slowly developing disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This eventually prevents the liver from functioning properly. The scar tissues block the flow of blood through the liver and delay the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs, and naturally formed toxins. They  also delays the production of proteins and other substances produced by the liver.

What Causes Cirrhosis of the Liver?

A variety of diseases and conditions can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis. The most common causes are:

  • Chronic alcohol abuse;
  • Chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis B and C);
  • Fat accumulating in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).

Other possible causes 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 (galactosemi 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);
  • Infective disease such schistosomiasis;
  • Drugs such as methotrexate.

What are the symptoms of cirrhosis?

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 (jaundice);
  • Fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites);
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Nausea;
  • Swelling in your legs;
  • Weight loss;
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy);
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin;
  • Redness in the palms of the hands;
  • Testicular atrophy in men;
  • Breast enlargement in men.

How cirrhosis is diagnosed?

People with early-stage cirrhosis of the liver usually don’t any symptoms. Often, cirrhosis is first diagnosed through a routine blood test or checkup. Your doctor may order one or more laboratory tests that may suggest a problem with your liver, such as cirrhosis.

Laboratory tests:

  • Liver function. Your blood is checked for excess bilirubin, which is a product of red blood cells breaking down. It’s also checked for certain enzymes that may indicate liver damage.
  • Kidney function. Doctors will check your blood for creatinine as kidney function may decline in later stages of cirrhosis.
  • Tests for hepatitis B and C. Your blood is checked for the hepatitis viruses.
  • Clotting. Your international normalized ratio (INR) is checked for your blood’s ability to clot.

Your doctor may order imaging and other tests to further diagnose cirrhosis.

  • Magnetic resonance elastography or transient elastography. These noninvasive imaging tests detect hardening or stiffening of the liver and may eliminate the need for a liver biopsy.
  • Other imaging tests. MRI, CT and ultrasound create images of the liver.
  • Biopsy. A tissue sample (biopsy) is not needed to diagnose cirrhosis. However, your doctor may use it to identify the severity, extent and cause of liver damage.

The liver performs many important functions. It’s essential to protect the liver against any hepatic diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis. Consult your doctor for further information.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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