What is cirrhosis of the liver?

Cirrhosis of the liver is a serious disease that causes permanent damage to the liver. The liver is a vital organ located in the right upper area of your abdomen under the ribs. Normal liver function is crucial to your overall health and life. Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by an underlying disease or condition that leads to the formation of scar tissue in the liver. Scar tissue reduces the liver's ability to carry out vital functions including:

  • Blood clotting

  • Clearing the blood of toxins

  • Digesting food and beverages to create nutrients and energy

  • Fighting infection

  • Metabolizing medications and other substances

  • Producing bile for digestion of food
  • Producing proteins, enzymes, and healthy blood

  • Removing waste

  • Storing vitamins, minerals and energy

Cirrhosis of the Liver Spotlight

There are a variety of diseases and conditions that can cause cirrhosis of the liver. The most common causes include chronic hepatitis C and excessive alcohol use.

Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver can differ among individuals depending on such variables as stage of the disease, age, underlying cause, medical history, the presence of complications, and general health. One typical symptom is jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Scarring of the liver caused by cirrhosis of the liver cannot be reversed or cured. However, patient compliance with a good treatment plan may be able to slow or stop progression of the disease and minimize complications. Treatment may include medication, lifestyle changes, and treating any underlying conditions, such as alcohol dependence or hepatitis.

Cirrhosis of the liver critically affects the liver’s ability to function normally and can result in serious, potentially life-threatening complications, such as portal hypertension, liver failure, hemorrhage, and kidney failure. Seek prompt medical care if you have a history of hepatitis, alcoholism, or other chronic diseases, or if you have unexplained symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, diarrhea or weakness. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce your risk of serious complications.

In addition, if you have cirrhosis of the liver, do not take any supplements, over-the-counter medications, or prescription drugs without consulting your health care provider. This is because the liver may not be able to clear the drugs from the body, resulting in dangerous, toxic levels of chemicals or substances in the body.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of advanced cirrhosis, liver failure, or other complications. Symptoms include an inability to produce urine, confusion, severe shortness of breath, jaundice, heavy rectal bleeding, vomiting blood, or a change in consciousness or alertness.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver?

Most people with cirrhosis of the liver experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, because small amounts of liver scarring do not significantly affect liver function. When symptoms of cirrhosis develop, they may include:

<... Read more about cirrhosis of the liversymptoms

CAUSES

What causes cirrhosis of the liver?

Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by an underlying disease or condition that results in inflammation and the formation of scar tissue in the liver. Some types of cirrhosis are preceded by a condition called steatohepatitis, commonly referred to as a fatty liver, which is a buildup of fat cells and enlargement of the liver. If the cause of fatty liver is not addressed, it can eventually lead to p... Read more about cirrhosis of the livercauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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