Information on Cirrhosis and Causes

The liver, the largest organ in the body, is essential in keeping the body functioning properly. It removes or neutralizes poisons from the blood, produces immune agents to control infection, and removes germs and bacteria from the blood. It makes proteins that regulate blood clotting and produces bile to help absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. You cannot live without a functioning liver.

Cirrhosis is the liver’s response to repeated injury. The liver becomes filled with tough fibrous bands and the cells clump together to form nodules. Eventually the fibrosis and nodules cause the liver to shrink and become hard. Blood flow through the liver becomes disrupted, elevating the pressure in a part of the circulation known as the portal system. This elevation in blood pressure can cause secondary damage in the form of esophageal varicies , hemorrhoids, and distended veins around the umbilicus.

Cirrhosis is the result of chronic liver disease that causes scarring of the liver and liver dysfunction. This often has many complications, including accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), bleeding disorders (coagulopathy), increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension), and confusion or a change in the level of consciousness (hepatic encephalopathy).

In cirrhosis of the liver, scar tissue replaces normal, healthy tissue, blocking the flow of blood through the organ and preventing it from working as it should. Cirrhosis is the twelfth leading cause of death by disease, killing about 26,000 people each year. Also, the cost of cirrhosis in terms of human suffering, hospital costs, and lost productivity is high.

The distortion of the normal liver structure by the scar tissue interferes with the flow of blood through the liver. It also handicaps the function of the liver which, through the loss of normal liver tissue, leads to failure of the liver to perform some of its critically important functions.

There may also be some abdominal pain and loss of weight. In the advanced stage, the patient develops a low grade fever. He has a foul breath, a jaundiced skin and distended veins in the abdomen. Reddish hairlike markings, resembling small spiders, may appear on the face, neck, arms, and trunk. The abdomen becomes bloated and swollen, the mind gets clouded, and there may be considerable bleeding from the stomach.

Cirrhosis can cause extremely dry skin and intense itching. The whites of the eyes and the skin may turn yellow (jaundice), and urine may be dark yellow or brown. Stools may be black or bloody. Sometimes the patient develops persistent high blood pressure due to the scarring (portal hypertension). This type of hypertension can be life threatening. It can cause veins to enlarge in the stomach and in the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach (esophagus).

Causes Resposible for Cirrhosis
Autoimmune Hepatitis. It occurs due to attacks on liver by body’s immune system. It leads to inflammation and damage of liver and results in cirrhosis.

Inherited diseases. Inherited diseases like Wilson’s disease, glycogen storage diseases, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and galactosemia interfere with the handling of proteins, enzymes, metals etc in the liver that could result in liver disorders. And such liver disorders may result in cirrhosis.