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Alternative namesLiver cirrhosis
DefinitionCirrhosis is the result of chronic liver disease that causes scarring of the liver (fibrosis - nodular regeneration) and liver dysfunction. This often has many complications, including accumulation of fluid in the abdomen ( ascites ), bleeding disorders ( coagulopathy ), increased pressure in the blood vessels (portal hypertension ), and confusion or a change in the level of consciousness ( hepatic encephalopathy ).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cirrhosis is caused by chronic liver disease. Common causes of chronic liver disease in the US include hepatitis C infection and long-term alcohol abuse . (See Alcoholic liver disease .) Hepatitis C is now the most common reason for liver transplantation in the US. Other causes of cirrhosis include hepatitis B, medications, autoimmune inflammation of the liver, disorders of the drainage system of the liver (the biliary system), and metabolic disorders of iron and copper (hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease).
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Note: Symptoms may develop gradually; or there may be no symptoms.
Signs and tests
A physical examination may reveal an enlarged liver or spleen, distended abdomen, yellow eyes or skin (jaundice), red spider-like blood vessels on the skin, excess breast tissue, small testicles in men, reddened palms, contracted fingers, and/or dilated abdominal wall veins.
A liver biopsy confirms cirrhosis.
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
Treatment is directed at managing the complications of cirrhosis and preventing further liver damage.
Support GroupsThe stress of illness can often be helped by joining support groups where members share common experiences and problems. See liver disease - support group .
Survival depends on the severity of complications of cirrhosis and the underlying causes.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if symptoms develop that are suggestive of cirrhosis.
Don't drink heavily. If you find that your drinking is getting out of hand, seek professional help. Avoiding intravenous drug use (or only using clean needles and never sharing other equipment) will reduce the risk of hepatitis B and C. Some research indicates that hepatitis C may be spread via shared use of straws or items used to snort cocaine or other drugs. Avoid snorting drugs or sharing any related parphernalia. If you have a problem with illicit drugs, seek help.
Update Date: 5/9/2002Andrew J. Muir, M.D. M.H.S., Division of Gastroenterology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT