Cirrhosis of the Liver: A Chronic Degenerative Disease

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Cirrhosis is a chronic degenerative disease in which normal liver cells are damaged and are then replaced by scar tissue. Cirrhosis changes the structure of the liver and the blood vessels that nourish it. The disease reduces the liver's ability to manufacture proteins and process hormones, nutrients, medications, and poisons. Cirrhosis gets worse over time and can become potentially life threatening. This disease can cause: excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), impotence, liver cancer, coma due to accumulated ammonia and body wastes (liver failure), sepsis (blood poisoning), and Death. Cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of disease-related death in the United States. It is the third most common cause of death in adults between the ages of 45 and 65. It is twice as common in men as in women. The disease occurs in more than half of all malnourished chronic alcoholics, and kills about 25,000 people a year Long-term alcoholism is the primary cause of cirrhosis in the United States. Men and women respond differently to alcohol. Although most men can safely consume two to five drinks a day, one or two drinks a day can cause liver damage in women. Individual tolerance to alcohol varies, but people who drink more and drink more often have a higher risk of developing cirrhosis. In some people, one drink a day can cause liver scarring. Obesity has recently been recognized as a risk factor in nonalcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Some surgeons are recommending as of 2003 that patients scheduled for weight-reduction surgery have a liver biopsy to evaluate the possibility of liver damage. Poor nutrition increases a person's risk of developing cirrhosis. In about 10 out of every 100 patients, the cause of cirrhosis cannot be determined. Many people who have cirrhosis do not have any symptoms (often called compensated cirrhosis). Their disease is detected during a routine physical or when tests for an unrelated medical problem are performed. This type of...
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