Font Size
A
A
A
2
...

Cirrhosis (cont.)

Cirrhosis Causes

Cirrhosis can be caused by a number of conditions, including long-standing inflammation, poisons, infections, and heart disease, as well as chronic alcoholism and chronic hepatitis, the most common causes. For 30-50 percent of cirrhosis cases, however, no cause can be found.

  • Chronic alcoholism: Alcohol can poison all living cells, causing liver cells to become inflamed and die.

    • The death of liver cells leads your body to form scar tissue around veins of your liver. Healing liver cells form nodules, which also press on the liver veins.
    • This scarring process occurs in 10-20 percent of alcoholics and is the most common form of cirrhosis in the United States.
    • The severity of the process depends on how much you drink and how long you have been abusing alcohol. The amount of alcohol needed to injure the liver varies widely from individual to individual.
    • Some families are more susceptible to cirrhosis than others.

  • Hepatitis: Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver from any cause, but it usually refers to a viral infection of the liver.

    • Over many years the inflammation damages liver cells and leads to scarring.
    • Hepatitis B,hepatitis C, and hepatitis D all can cause cirrhosis.
    • Worldwide, hepatitis B is the most common cause of cirrhosis, but in the United States hepatitis C is a more common cause.

  • Biliary cirrhosis: Bile is a substance produced by the liver to help the body digest fats.

    • Bile is carried from the liver to the gallbladder and eventually into the intestines by small tubes called bile ducts.
    • If these ducts become blocked, the bile backs up and can damage the liver. The liver becomes inflamed, starting the long process of cell damage that leads to cirrhosis.
    • In adults, gallstones are a common cause of bile duct blockage. Surgery to remove the gallbladder also blocks the bile ducts.
    • Children may be born with a condition that blocks the bile ducts called biliary atresia.
    • This disease usually affects women aged 35-60 years.

  • Autoimmune cirrhosis: The body's immune system defends against "invaders" such as bacteria, viruses, or allergens.

    • Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system instead begins to fight healthy body tissues and organs.
    • In autoimmune hepatitis, the body's immune system attacks the liver, causing cell damage that leads to cirrhosis.

  • Drugs, toxins, and infections: Various substances and germs can cause damage to the liver.

    • Certain medications (for example, acetaminophen [Tylenol]), poisons, and environmental toxins can lead to cirrhosis.
    • Reactions to certain drugs can damage the liver. This is rare.
    • Long-term infections with various bacteria or parasites can damage the liver and cause cirrhosis.

  • Cardiac cirrhosis: Your heart is a pump that pushes blood throughout your body. When your heart doesn't pump well, blood "backs up" into the liver.

    • This congestion causes damage to your liver.
    • It may become swollen and painful. Later it becomes hard and less painful.
    • The cause of the heart failure may be a heart valve problem, smoking, or infection of the heart muscle or the sac around the heart.
Medical Author:
Coauthor:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:

Must Read Articles Related to Cirrhosis

Alcohol Intoxication
Alcohol Intoxication

Alcohol intoxication is defined as when the quantity of alcohol the person consumes produces behavioral or physical abnormalities. Alcohol is the generic ...learn more >>

Alcoholism
Alcoholism Alcohol problems vary in severity from mild to life threatening and affect the individual, the person's family, and society in numerous adverse ways. Despite al...learn more >>
Edema
Edema Edema, or the abnormal accumulation of fluid in tissues in the body can be caused by several factors. Treatment of edema depends on the cause of the edema.learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Cirrhosis:

Cirrhosis of The Liver - Symptoms

The symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

Cirrhosis of the Liver - Treatment

What treatment has been effective for your cirrhosis?





Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Cirrhosis »

Cirrhosis represents the final common histologic pathway for a wide variety of chronic liver diseases. The term cirrhosis was first introduced by Laennec in 1826.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary