Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease that causes degeneration of liver cells and decreased function of the liver.
What is going on in the body?
The liver filters out poisons, germs, bacteria, and wastes from the blood. It also releases vitamins, minerals, sugar, and immune agents back into the blood. The liver can replace its own diseased or damaged cells with new cells. Liver transplants are possible because of this ability.
In some cases, however, the restoration process can cause problems. As the liver tries to repair itself, the new cell growth is surrounded by scar tissue. The scar tissue may form nodules, or lumps. These nodules prevent the liver from restoring itself. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the veins and arteries.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Cirrhosis can be caused by a number of diseases and conditions. It occurs in twice as many men as women. Most people with cirrhosis are between 40 and 60 years of age. The most common causes of cirrhosis in developed nations include:
alcoholic liver disease
hepatitis B, which may be accompanied by hepatitis D
hepatitis C, with or without alcoholic liver disease
Other causes of cirrhosis include:
drug-induced liver disease from methotrexate, alpha methyl dopa, amiodarone, and other medicines
hemochromatosis, a disorder that causes excess accumulation of iron in the body
inborn errors of metabolism, such as galactosemia or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
thalassemia, a group of hereditary blood disorders
tricuspid regurgitation, a heart valve disorder
various liver diseases
Wilson's disease, a disorder that allows copper to accumulate in the liver and other organs
years of severe right-sided heart failure