What is liver cirrhosis?

Liver cirrhosis refers to a shrunken, scarred and hardened liver with potential for deterioration of liver function. It results from chronic (long-term) damage to the liver from various causes, leading to progressive scarring of the liver over years.

Liver cirrhosis is a serious condition because once the liver becomes cirrhotic, the damage to the liver is irreversible. This leads to progressive liver failure, complications of cirrhosis, liver cancer and eventual death.

“Not everyone who drinks large amounts of alcohol will get liver cirrhosis. However, those who have hepatitis C are more likely to suffer liver damage from alcohol,” notes Dr Tan Hiang Keat, Consultant, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Risk factors for liver cirrhosis

You may be at risk of liver cirrhosis if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Chronic hepatitis B
  • Chronic hepatitis C
  • Chronic excessive alcohol intake
  • Fatty liver disease (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis)
  • Autoimmune liver disease (autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis or primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • Wilson disease, hemochromatosis and other rare inherited liver diseases

Can liver cirrhosis be prevented?

You can’t undo the damage from cirrhosis although early treatment can slow down further damage. So here are some ways to prevent liver cirrhosis:

  1. A balanced diet will provide everything you need to keep your overall wellbeing in check.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight.
  3. The tolerance for alcohol varies greatly from person to person, so know your limits and do not exceed them as much as possible. For men, it’s 14 units a week and in women, seven units a week. NOTE: One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink as well as its alcohol strength. For e.g. a glass (250ml) of wine has 3 units, a standard can (440ml) of beer has 2 units and a shot (25ml) of spirits carries 1 unit.
  4. Reduce your risk of Hepatitis B and C.
  5. Do not mix alcohol and drugs.
Read on to find out more about the symptoms and diagnosis of liver cirrhosis.

Ref: Q15