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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases & Conditions Arrow to CirrhosisCirrhosis of the Liver

diagram showing scarring caused by cirrhosis of the liver
Evidence of scarring is often seen in cases
of advanced cirrhosis commonly caused by
hepatitis and overconsumption of alcohol.


Cirrhosis is the term used whenever healthy functioning liver cells are destroyed and distortion and scarring of the liver takes place due to liver disease.

Until quite recently, alcoholism was sited as the primary cause of cirrhosis, but due to the rapid rise of the hepatitis C virus, it has now taken first place as a major risk factor.

Other less common causes of cirrhosis include coronary heart disease, autoimmune diseases such as hemochromatosis (excess iron accumulation in the blood) or hereditary conditions such as Wilson disease.

Additional risk factors are ingestions of poisons or environmental exposure to certain chemicals.

Cirrhosis symptoms

In its early stages, cirrhosis may show no symptoms, but as the disease progresses patients will commonly report fatigue, nausea, unexplained weight loss or swelling in the legs and abdomen. As the liver begins to fail, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) may develop along with intense itching caused by a build-up of bile in the skin.

Although liver scarring from cirrhosis is irreversible, the disease usually develops over time and with proper treatment symptoms can be brought under control.

Cirrhosis treatment

An important part of treatment always calls for a complete abstinence from alcohol. Patients are also advised to get vaccinated against preventable hepatitis strains (hepatitis A & B), and to avoid common painkillers and other medications that may damage the liver further.

Dietary guidelines are as equally important in managing cirrhosis. Usually, patients are warned about the severe infections which can arise from eating raw shellfish that may carry the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. Reduction in salt intake is also highly recommended to avoid recurrences of swelling in the legs and ankles.

A low fat diet, rich in fresh fruit & vegetables, is also usually advised for overall optimum health, and the herb milk thistle may be prescribed for its natural liver healing properties. Used in Europe for centuries, today scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of milk thistle in liver disease, but consult with your doctor to ensure it won't interact with other prescribed medications.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon and in flaxseed oil and walnuts, have also been suggested for their liver protecting properties.

More information about cirrhosis around the Web:

What I Need to Know about Cirrhosis of the Liver
- Illustrated fact sheet covering causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, with advice on self-care, related links.

Liver Panel - A guide to typical diagnostic tools used to detect liver disease or damage, with detailed information on the alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), bilirubin, albumin and total protein tests.

What is Primary Biliary Cirrhosis? - Guide to the condition effecting the liver bile ducts, including information on causes, symptoms, prognosis and treatment.

This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.

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