Liver cirrhosis refers to a shrunken, scarred and hardened liver with failure of liver function. It results from chronic (long-term) damage to the liver from various causes, leading to progressive scarring of the liver over years. Common causes of liver cirrhosis include chronic viral hepatitis infection (chronic hepatitis B or C), excessive alcohol intake, autoimmune liver disease and fatty liver disease.
Liver cirrhosis is a serious condition because once the liver becomes cirrhotic, the damage to the liver is irreversible. This leads to progressive liver failure, complications of cirrhosis, liver cancer and eventual death.
Portal hypertension refers to increased blood pressure in the blood vessels supplying the liver (the portal vein). This is a common complication of liver cirrhosis. The hardened liver obstructs blood flow from the portal vein, leading to elevated pressures in the portal vein. This results in enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly), development of swollen veins in the stomach and esophagus (varices) and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites). Most of the symptoms and signs of liver cirrhosis are a result of the development of portal hypertension.
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