The scarring and replacement of normal healthy tissue with less effective fibrous tissue is called Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver is a serious condition, with several causes including alcohol and hepatitis infection. Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most common and well known cause of liver cirrhosis. However, it is a misconception that only alcoholics suffer from this disease.
In fact, heavy weekend bingeing over a period of time can lead to some form of liver damage Cirrhosis can be identified by abnormal levels of certain biological chemicals within the bloodstream. One of these chemicals is a bile pigment called bilirubin. If liver function is impaired, the blood levels of bilirubin rise and the pigment is then deposited into the skin tissues, giving the skin the yellow tinge associated with jaundice.
The liver may also feel harder on examination. As the disease progresses abnormal concentrations of hormones may lead to some physical changes of the genitalia and the development of breast tissue in males. Blood vessels in the abdominal wall may become over dilated and burst causing internal bleeding. In the end stages of the disease fluid accumulates in the abdomen and brain tissue, leading to mental impairment and coma.
The liver is an unusual organ, in that it can to some extent, rejuvenate any damaged cells. This means that the body can repair any liver damage, if recognized early, by simply stopping the intake of alcohol, in the case of alcoholic cirrhosis or treating hepatitis with antiviral drugs. There is a point however, where the liver can become damaged beyond repair and progressive deterioration of both liver function and the individuals health will follow. Liver failure is fatal and at present the only treatment for liver failure is to undergo a liver transplant.
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