An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cirrhosis.
Causes of Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a liver disease characterized by permanent scarring of the liver that interferes with its normal functions. Causes include:
- Chronic hepatitis B and C
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Bile duct disorders such as primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which includes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
- Metabolic disorders such as hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
Cirrhosis can cause many serious complications including:
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
- Variceal hemorrhage, severe bleeding from varices (enlarged veins in the esophagus and upper stomach)
- Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, a severe infection of the membrane lining of the abdomen
- Hepatic encephalopathy, impaired mental function caused by buildup in the body of toxins such as ammonia
- Hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer
- Hepatorenal syndrome, when kidney failure occurs along with severe cirrhosis
Dietary and Lifestyle Changes
Anyone who has cirrhosis can benefit from certain lifestyle interventions. These include:
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Restrict dietary salt.
- Follow a healthy diet plan.
- Get vaccinations for influenza, hepatitis A and B, and pneumococcal pneumonia (if recommended by your doctor).
- Inform your health care provider of all prescription and nonprescription medications, and any herbs and supplements, you take or are considering taking.
Cirrhosis is considered an irreversible condition. Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of liver damage and reducing the risk of further complications. Your doctor will treat any underlying medical conditions that are the cause of your cirrhosis.
If liver damage progresses to liver failure, some people may be candidates for liver transplantation. Liver donations can come from either a cadaver or from a living donor. People with cirrhosis who have a liver transplant have very good chances for survival.