Cirrhosis is a term that refers to a group of chronic diseases of the liver in which normal liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue, decreasing the amount of normal liver tissue. 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.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is a very important organ to keep the body functioning properly. It is involved in the processing of nutrients and fats, poisons or toxins that find their way into the body, hormones and medications. It controls blood clotting and produces proteins. So, cirrhosis of the liver can affect the functioning of the entire body.
Cirrhosis is a complication of many liver diseases that is characterized by abnormal structure and function of the liver. The diseases that lead to cirrhosis do so because they injure and kill liver cells, and the inflammation and repair that is associated with the dying liver cells causes scar tissue to form. The liver cells that do not die multiply in an attempt to replace the cells that have died. This results in clusters of newly-formed liver cells (regenerative nodules) within the scar tissue.
Symptoms Liver Cirrhosis
Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma or hepatoma) can develop, particularly when cirrhosis is due to chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C or alcoholism.
Liver cirrhosis does not develop overnight. It takes several years to develop. While liver cirrhosis is developing, there are usually no symptoms.
Causes Liver Cirrhosis
Blocked bile ducts, which causes bile to back up and damage the liver. NIDDK says that in babies, blocked bile ducts are most commonly caused by biliary atresia, a disease in which the bile ducts are absent or injured. In adults, the most common cause is primary biliary cirrhosis, a disease in which the ducts become inflamed, blocked, and scarred. Secondary biliary cirrhosis can happen after gallbladder surgery, if the ducts are inadvertently tied off or injured.
Chronic Bile Duct Blockage — This condition can occur at birth (biliary atresia) or develop later in life (primary biliary cirrhosis). The cause of the latter remains unknown. When the bile ducts outside the liver become narrowed and blocked, the condition is called primary sclerosing cholangitis. This condition is often associated with chronic ulceration of the colon (colitis).
Chronic hepatitis C – The hepatitis C virus ranks with alcohol as a major cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the United States. Infection with this virus causes inflammation of and low grade damage to the liver that over several decades can lead to cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is the third most common cause of death after heart disorders and cancer among people aged 45 to 65. The scar tissue forms bands throughout the liver, destroying the liver’s internal structure and impairing the liver’s ability to regenerate itself or function.
Diseases caused by abnormal liver function, such as hemochromatosis, a condition in which excessive iron is absorbed and deposited into the liver and other organs, and Wilson’s disease, caused by the abnormal storage of copper in the liver.