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Cirrhosis


Overview :

Cirrhosis changes the structure of the liver and the blood vessels that nourish it. The disease reduces the liver's ability to manufacture proteins and process hormones, nutrients, medications, and poisons.

Cirrhosis gets worse over time and can become potentially life threatening. This disease can cause:

  • excessive bleeding (hemorrhage)
  • impotence
  • liver cancer
  • coma due to accumulated ammonia and body wastes (liver failure)
  • sepsis (blood poisoning)
  • death

Cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of disease-related death in the United States. It is the third most common cause of death in adults between the ages of 45 and 65. It is twice as common in men as in women. The disease occurs in more than half of all malnourished chronic alcoholics, and kills about 25,000 people a year. In Asia and Africa, however, most deaths from cirrhosis are due to chronic hepatitis B.

Types of cirrhosis

Portal or nutritional cirrhosis is the form of the disease most common in the United States. About 30-50% of all cases of cirrhosis are this type. Nine out of every 10 people who have nutritional cirrhosis have a history of alcoholism. Portal or nutritional cirrhosis is also called Laënnec's cirrhosis.

Biliary cirrhosis is caused by intrahepatic bile-duct diseases that impede bile flow. Bile is formed in the liver and is carried by ducts to the intestines. Bile then helps digest fats in the intestines. Biliary cirrhosis can scar or block these ducts. It represents 15-20% of all cirrhosis.

Various types of chronic hepatitis, especially hepatitis B and hepatitis C, can cause postnecrotic cirrhosis. This form of the disease affects up to 40% of all patients who have cirrhosis.

Disorders like the inability to metabolize iron and similar disorders may cause pigment cirrhosis (hemochromatosis), which accounts for 5-10% of all instances of the disease.




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