Information on Cirrhosis of the Liver

The liver is an organ that weighs about three pounds in an adult male. It has over 300 functions among them clearing toxins from the blood, assisting blood clotting, producing enzymes for digestion and making albumin. The liver is very efficient at repairing itself but if it is under continuous attack by toxins such as alcohol, or infection such as hepatitis, it can become so scarred that it is no longer able to function.

This scarring can lead to cirrhosis.

According to preliminary data for 2004 published by the National Center for Health Statistics in June this year (2006), cirrhosis and chronic liver disease remains the 11th leading cause of death.
Cirrhosis affects twice as many men as women.
Hepatitis C and chronic alcoholism are the most common causes of cirrhosis.

Causes of Cirrhosis
There are a number of diseases that can cause cirrhosis. They include:

  • Chronic Hepatitis C, B and D are viral infections affecting the liver. The inflammation caused by the different hepatitis viruses causes damage and scarring over a number of years and decades. This scaring can lead to cirrhosis.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver develops over a number of years of heavy drinking. Currently more men that women are affected but this picture is changing along with the social roles of women. Women are more susceptible to liver damage from drinking alcohol.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis appears to be caused by the immune system attacking the liver and causing inflammation, damage, and scarring that can lead to cirrhosis.
  • Toxins can cause cirrhosis. These toxins include prescription and non prescription drugs and environmental toxins and a parasitic infection called schistosomiasis.
  • Inherited diseases such as hemochromatosis, a condition where too much iron is present in the body, and Wilson's disease a rare disease of copper metabolism. Also, in Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, galactosemia, and glycogen storage diseases.
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) where fat builds up in the liver that eventually cause scar tissue. Although it is not fully understood NASH appears to be associated with diabetes, obesity, treatment using corticosteroid medications and coronary artery disease.
  • Blocked absent or injured bile ducts can cause cirrhosis. Biliary atresia in babies and biliary cirrhosis are examples of such conditions.
  • Signs Symptoms of Cirrhosis
    Many people with cirrhosis may not show any symptoms until their liver disease is quite advanced. Signs and symptoms include:
    Fatigue
    Itching
    Jaundice caused by high levels of bilirubin that are not able to be excreted from the body
    Enlarged liver
    Abdominal pain
    Fatty deposits under the skin caused by cholesterol deposits
    Soft yellow spots on the eyelid
    Fatty stools
    Dry eyes and mouth
    Digestive problems

    Links for further information about:

  • Complications of Cirrhosis of the Liver
  • Treatments for Cirrhosis
  • Video Link for Hepatitis C: Are You a Silent Carrier?
  • Video Link for Diet and Cirrhosis: What Should You Be Eating?
  • Video Link for Alcohol and Your Liver
  • Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcohol Dependence
  • Article Sources Include: National Center for Health Statistics 2004, CDC Center for Disease Control, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,

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