Cirrhosis is when the permanent scarring of the liver has replaced the healthy tissue. While cirrhosis is most often associated with chronic alcohol consumption, it is brought about by many types of liver disease. Here’s how you get from liver disease to cirrhosis.
When you have liver disease, the liver enters into a perilous cycle to heal itself. The immune system sends the signal to repair cells triggering chronic inflammation and to continue depositing collagen. In a healthy liver, the collagen stiffens around the tissue, and any extra is discarded. However, with liver disease, there is no signal to stop the inflammation discarding the excess collagen. So, the inflammation and more deposits of collagen continue. This leads to more liver stiffening and the development of fibrosis.
Fibrosis is when collagen and other proteins build up between the cells. This forms scar tissue which can block or limit blood flow within the liver, eventually starving and killing healthy liver cells. More scar tissue forms, and unlike healthy liver cells, it cannot function or repair itself.
While fibrosis is reversible even into the later stages of liver disease, there is a point where the damage is too significant, and the liver can’t fix itself. No treatment can cure cirrhosis; by staying away from things that could harm your liver further, like liquor, certain drugs, and fatty food, you can help improve some of the scarrings. Treatment for individuals with cirrhosis includes managing its symptoms and treating the underlying cause to prevent liver function from worsening or liver failure. Those with cirrhosis have a high risk of developing liver cancer and eventually needing a transplant.
Our livers are versatile, continuing to work even when they’ve become seriously scarred. Most individuals with liver disease do not know it until routine blood work picks it up or symptoms become present in the later stages. Talk with your doctor about preventative measures you can take if you’re at risk of liver disease.
Arizona Liver Health offers FREE fibroscans for adults at risk of liver disease. A fibroscan is a quick way to determine the health of your liver and the presence of liver disease. Should your results indicate fatty liver or other liver conditions, our staff will talk with you about enrolling studies that may be an option. To learn more, call us at (480) 470-4000, or fill out a request form online today!