Cirrhosis is a disease in which the liver cells become permanently damaged, and the structure and function of the liver is permanently altered. Once liver damage has occurred, the damaged areas are replaced by scar tissue. Blood does not flow properly through scarred liver tissue, and this interferes with important liver functions.
The liver plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions, including the production of blood clotting factors, production of bile, cholesterol metabolism, maintenance of normal blood sugar concentrations, and detoxification of toxins like alcohol and drugs. Because the role of the liver is so diverse and so critical to life, liver diseases such as cirrhosis can severely disrupt normal functions throughout the body.
Many conditions can lead to cirrhosis, including viral hepatitis, inherited diseases, prolonged obstruction of the bile ducts, severe drug reactions, and chronic exposure to environmental toxins. The most common cause of cirrhosis is chronic alcohol abuse. Approximately 27,000 Americans die from cirrhosis each year.
Cirrhosis. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/cirrhosis. Updated December 3, 2012. Accessed April 24, 2013.
Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/cirrhosis/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated February 21, 2012. Accessed April 24, 2013.
Cirrhosis of the liver. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114078/Cirrhosis-of-the-liver. Updated September 16, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.