The liver is the human body’s largest internal organ and the primary blood filter that detoxifies alcohol, drugs, and other potentially harmful chemicals. It forms an essential part of the digestive system as it produces bile that breaks down fatty food. It is also an important component of the immune system as it aids in the removal of bacteria and viruses from the blood.
An increasingly unhealthy lifestyle has been contributing towards making India the world capital of liver diseases . According to WHO, it is the tenth most common cause of deaths in India. A leading cause amongst them being liver cirrhosis for which almost 10 lakhs new patients are diagnosed with it every year.
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis of the liver is a slowly developing disease that occurs when healthy cells in the liver are damaged and replaced by dense scar tissues. The tough scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the liver’s ability to process nutrients, hormones, drugs, and natural toxins wane away. The disease eventually reduces the normal functioning of the liver.
Is Alcohol the only cause of Liver Cirrhosis?
The link between alcohol and cirrhosis is commonly mistaken as the only reason behind the toughening of liver tissue. The important thing to know here is that, though excessive drinking inevitably causes liver damage, it does not always necessarily lead to cirrhosis. In general, anything that damages the liver can cause cirrhosis. Following are the other factors that lead to cirrhosis of the liver:
Long-term inflammation of the liver caused due to Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C is likely to cause scarring and cirrhosis of the liver. The initial symptoms may be mild, but as the damage continues, a serious case of cirrhosis can be faced later in life. It is therefore important for people with Hepatitis to get regular medical checkups done.
Normally, the liver contains some fat by itself. In some patients especially those who suffer from diabetes, elevated cholesterol, obesity , and metabolic syndrome, the liver cells become swollen with accumulating more fat and water. This excess fat can cause inflammation which can lead to liver abnormalities that can cause cirrhosis.
Inherited Liver Disorder
In some cases, a genetic condition such as Hemochromatosis (where excessive iron is absorbed in the liver) and Wilson’s disease (where copper is accumulated in the liver) can damage the liver and lead to hardening of liver tissues.
Bile Duct Blockage
Liver cirrhosis can also occur when the liver scarring blocks the flow of bile in the bile ducts and causes it to accumulate in the liver for a long period of time. The disease may come as a consequence of long-term exposure to certain drugs, toxic substances in the environment, such as pesticides and arsenic-based compounds.