Cirrhosis (say “suh-ROH-sus”) is a very serious condition in which scarring damages the liver. The liver is a large organ that is part of the digestive system. It does a wide range of complex jobs that are vital for life.
For example, the liver:
Makes many important substances, including bile to help digest food and clotting factors to help stop bleeding.
Filters poisons from the blood.
Breaks down (metabolizes) alcohol and many drugs.
Controls the amounts of sugar, protein, and fat in the bloodstream.
Stores important vitamins and minerals, including iron.
When a person has cirrhosis, scar tissue (fibrosis camera.gif) replaces healthy tissue. This scar tissue prevents the liver from working as it should. For example, the liver may stop producing enough clotting factors, which can lead to bleeding and bruising. Bile and poisons may build up in the blood. Scarring can also cause high blood pressure in the vein that carries blood from the intestines through the liver (portal hypertension). This can lead to severe bleeding in the digestive tract and other serious problems.
Cirrhosis can be deadly. But early treatment can help stop damage to the liver.