Cirrhosis is a complication of liver disease that involves loss of liver cells and irreversible scarring of the liver.Alcohol and viral hepatitis B and C are common causes of cirrhosis, although there are many other causes.Cirrhosis can cause weakness, loss of appetite, easy bruising, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itching, and fatigue.
Cirrhosis is a complication of many liver diseases characterized by abnormal structure and function of the liver. The diseases that lead to cirrhosis do so because they injure and kill liver cells, after which 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. There are many causes of cirrhosis including chemicals (such as alcohol, fat, and certain medications), viruses, toxic metals (such as iron and copper that accumulate in the liver as a result of genetic diseases), and autoimmune liver disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the liver.
The liver is an important organ in the body. It performs many critical functions, two of which are producing substances required by the body, for example, clotting proteins that are necessary in order for blood to clot, and removing toxic substances that can be harmful to the body, for example, such as drugs. The liver also has an important role in regulating the supply of glucose (sugar) and lipids (fat) that the body uses as fuel. In order to perform these critical functions, the liver cells must be working normally, and they must have a close proximity to the blood because the substances that are added or removed by the liver are transported to and from the liver by the blood.
Peolple with cirrhosis may have few or no symptoms and signs of liver disease. Some of the symptoms may be nonspecific and don’t suggest the liver is their cause. Common symptoms and signs of cirrhosis include:
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice) due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood
- Loss of appetite
- Easy bruising from decreased production of blood clotting factors by the diseased liver.
- Stage 1 cirrhosis involves some scarring of the liver, but few symptoms. This stage is considered compensated cirrhosis, where there are no complications.
- Stage 2 cirrhosis includes worsening portal hypertension and the development of varices.
- Stage 3 cirrhosis involves the development of swelling in the abdomen and advanced liver scarring. This stage marks decompensated cirrhosis, with serious complications and possible liver failure.
- Stage 4 cirrhosis can be life threatening and people have develop end-stage liver disease (ESLD), which is fatal without a transplant.