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) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
- Metabolic disorders such as hemachromatosis, Wilson’s disease, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
- Prolonged exposure to certain types of chemicals and medications
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 abdominal fluid
- Hepatic encephalopathy, damage to the brain 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
All patients with cirrhosis can benefit from certain lifestyle interventions. These include:
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Restrict dietary salt.
- Eat a nutritious diet.
- Get vaccinations for influenza, hepatitis A and B, and pneumococcal pneumonia (if recommended by your doctor).
- Inform your doctor of all prescription and nonprescription medications, and any herbs and supplements, you take or are considering taking.
Cirrhosis is 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, patients may be candidates for liver transplantation. Liver donations can come from either a cadaver or from a living donor. Patients with cirrhosis who have a liver transplant have very good chances for survival.
Review Date: 11/04/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.