Liver Cirrhosis (Liver Scarring) - Symptoms & Causes

What is liver cirrhosis?

Liver cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver.

The liver carries out many important functions including metabolism control, protein synthesis, vitamin and iron storage, bile production, as well as removal of toxins from the body. If the liver does not work properly, it can lead to severe complications and even death.

Cirrhosis occurs when healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue. Every time the liver is injured, it tries to repair itself. If the liver is continually injured, an increasing number of healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue. This eventually leads to the development of cirrhosis.

What are the symptoms of liver cirrhosis?

Liver cirrhosis symptoms may not show in the early stages of the disease. However, as the disease develops and enough liver damage has occurred, you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Black stools
  • Changes in personality and confusion in severe cases
  • Fluid build up in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)
  • Loss of weight and loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Red spider-looking spots on your chest and back (spider angiomas)
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Swelling of the legs (oedema)
  • Tiredness and sleepiness
  • Vomiting blood

What causes liver cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis of the liver can be caused by different liver diseases and conditions.

The main liver cirrhosis causes include:

Other causes include:

  • Frequent exposure to environmental toxins and drugs
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is caused by fat build-up in the liver
  • Poorly-formed or blocked bile ducts, which cause the bile to build up in the liver
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis, caused by destruction of the bile ducts that carry bile out of the liver
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, which is a liver disease caused by the body’s own immune system
  • Schistosomiasis, which is a parasitic infection common in developing countries
  • Wilson’s disease caused by the build-up of copper in the liver

Complications of liver cirrhosis include:

  • High blood pressure in the liver (portal hypertension)
  • Increased risk of liver cancer
  • Mental confusion due to high levels of toxins in the blood and brain
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