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Fibrosis and Cirrhosis of the Liver

The first stage of liver scarring is fibrosis. When liver inflammation and related damage occurs, scarring of liver tissue results. The scarred tissue replaces healthy tissues, and it does not function like the healthy liver tissue does.  As more scar tissue accumulates, the liver will not work as well and the healthy part of your liver has to work harder to compensate. However, with proper treatment even a scarred liver can improve and regain more normal functioning.

Cirrhosis is a condition in which enough normal, healthy liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue that a recovery is not possible. A cirrhosis-damaged liver can cause widespread disruption of many body functions. But despite the damage, this liver can still perform some of its functions.

Cirrhosis has many causes, but perhaps the most common is excessive alcohol consumption. Continuous attack by the hepatitis virus also leads to cirrhosis. This causes the filtering process to slow down and more poisonous chemicals remain in the blood stream. These poisonous chemicals affect the brain and cause mental confusion.

Many diseases can aggravate cirrhosis, including hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and biliary atresia. Less common causes of cirrhosis include bile duct disorders, and other liver sicknesses such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Another serious result of cirrhosis is portal hypertension. Usually, blood from the intestines is pumped through the portal vein to the liver. During cirrhosis, blood flow slows down and tightens as it enters the portal vein. These blood vessels, under pressure, expand and become greatly enlarged (called “varices” or “varicose veins”), causing a thinning of their walls. As the cirrhosis increases, so does the pressure in these vessels. If they burst, there could be serious bleeding in the esophagus or stomach and you may vomit of blood and/or have black

What are symptoms of cirrhosis?

  • Fatigue (often the first and only sign)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting (accompanied by weight loss)
  • Enlargement of the liver; Itching (caused by a buildup of bile products in the liver)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Formation of gallstones (because of a lack of bile in the gallbladder)
  • Accumulation of water in the abdomen (called "ascites")
  • Accumulation of water in the legs (called "edema")
  • Bruising or bleeding easily

Currently, there is no cure for cirrhosis. Doctors can delay its progress, minimize liver cell damage, treat side effects and reduce the complications of the disease. Beta blocker drugs can reduce portal hypertension and diuretics are often prescribed to remove excess fluid that

accumulates in the ankles or the abdomen. Most of the side effects of the disease can be treated. Even if it is damaged, the liver can still perform some of its functions. Research has shown some promising new treatments which are in clinical studies.