Causes of Cirrhosis of Liver
Cirrhosis has many causes. To many people, cirrhosis of the liver is synonymous with chronic alcoholism, but in fact, alcoholism is only one of the causes. Alcoholic cirrhosis usually develops after more than a decade of heavy drinking. The amount of alcohol that can injure the liver varies greatly from person to person. In women, as few as two to three drinks per day have been linked with cirrhosis and in men, as few as three to four drinks per day. Alcohol seems to injure the liver by blocking the normal metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Chronic hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus is a major cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Infection with this virus causes inflammation of and low–grade damage to the liver that over several decades can lead to cirrhosis.
Chronic hepatitis B and D
The hepatitis B virus is probably the most common cause of cirrhosis worldwide, Hepatitis B, like hepatitis C, causes liver inflammation and injury that over several decades can lead to cirrhosis. The hepatitis D virus is another virus that infects the liver, but only in people who already have hepatitis B.
This type of hepatitis is caused by a problem with the immune system.
Alpha–1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, galactosemia, and glycogen storage diseases are among the inherited diseases that interfere with the way the liver produces, processes, and stores enzymes, proteins, metals, and other substances the body needs to function properly.
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
In Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fat builds up in the liver and eventually causes scar tissue. This type of hepatitis appears to be associated with diabetes, protein malnutrition, obesity, coronary artery disease, and corticosteroid treatment.
Blocked bile ducts
When the ducts that carry bile out of the liver are blocked, bile backs up and damages liver tissue. In babies, blocked bile ducts are most commonly caused by biliary atresia, a disease in which the bile ducts are absent or injured. In adults, the most common cause is primary biliary cirrhosis, a disease in which the ducts become inflamed, blocked, and scarred. Secondary biliary cirrhosis can happen after gallbladder surgery, if the ducts are inadvertently tied off or injured. Drugs, toxins, and infections. Severe reactions to prescription drugs, prolonged exposure to environmental toxins, the parasitic infection schistosomiasis, and repeated bouts of heart failure with liver congestion can each lead to cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Cirrhosis of Liver
Many people with cirrhosis have no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. However, as scar tissue replaces healthy cells, liver function starts to fail and a person may experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
Complications of Cirrhosis
Loss of liver function affects the body in many ways. Following are common problems, or complications, caused by cirrhosis.
Edema and ascites
When the liver loses its ability to make the protein albumin, water accumulates in the leg (edema) and abdomen (ascites).
Bruising and bleeding
When the liver slows or stops production of the proteins needed for blood clotting, a person will bruise or bleed easily.
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when the diseased liver does not absorb enough bilirubin.
Bile products deposited in the skin may cause intense itching.
If cirrhosis prevents bile from reaching the gallbladder, a person may develop gallstones.
Toxins in the blood or brain
A damaged liver cannot remove toxins from the blood, causing them to accumulate in the blood and eventually the brain. There, toxins can dull mental functioning and cause personality changes, coma, and even death. Signs of the buildup of toxins in the brain include neglect of personal appearance, unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, or changes in sleep habits.