Cirrhosis is the development of scar tissue, fibrosis, and regenerative nodules that replace the normal functional parts of the liver, blocking the portal flow of blood through the liver causing liver failure. It is a consequence of chronic liver disease.
Cirrhosis is most commonly caused by alcoholism, hepatitis B and C, and fatty liver disease, but has many other possible causes. Some cases have no unknown cause (idiopathic).
Cirrhosis and chronic liver disease were the 10th leading cause of death for men and the 12th for women in North America in 2001, killing about 27,000 people each year.
Many people with cirrhosis do not experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. However, as scar tissue replaces healthy cells, liver function may begin to fail, causing the following symptoms.
- Development of spider-like red spots on the chest, face or arms
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired sleep
- Poor memory
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and/or legs
- Yellowish color of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Weakness and decreased muscle mass
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Coma, in severe cases
Cirrhosis is generally irreversible, and treatment usually focuses on preventing progression and complications. In advanced stages of cirrhosis the only option is a liver transplant.