What Causes Cirrhosis?

Many people have more than one cause for liver damage. A wide variety of diseases and conditions can damage the liver, leading to cirrhosis. Not all liver diseases cause cirrhosis – only those that cause chronic, ongoing damage to the liver can lead to permanent scarring of liver tissue. Any chronic liver disease can cause cirrhosis and it can take many years for liver damage to lead to cirrhosis.

  • Long-term alcohol abuse – the leading cause of cirrhosis in the United States
  • Long-term infection with Hepatitis C virus – the second leading cause of cirrhosis in the United States
  • Chronic Hepatitis B and Hepatitis D
  • Cystic Fibrosis (CF) – an inherited disorder of the secretory glands, including the glands that make mucous and sweat. CF mostly affects lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses and sex organs. Liver disease is a relatively frequent and early complication of cystic fibrosis.
  • Bile duct disease (primary schlerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis) –bile backs up into the liver causing the liver to swell
  • Poorly formed bile ducts
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)) – fat that accumulates in the liver not caused by alcohol abuse
  • Hemochromatosis –a genetic disease that causes iron to build up in the body
  • Wilson’s Disease – a genetic disease that causes an over accumulation of copper in the liver
  • Glycogen Storage Disease – a genetic disease that causes problems with storing and releasing energy needed by cells to function
  • Autoimmune hepatitis – caused by the body’s immune system attacking the liver
  • Poorly formed bile ducts (biliary atresia)
  • Schistosomiasis – also known as bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. Although the worms that cause schistosomiasis are not found in the United States, more than 200 million people are infected worldwide. In terms of impact this disease is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease. Schistosomiasis is considered one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
  • Excessive intake of vitamins – such as vitamin A. Being fat-soluble, vitamin A is stored to a variable degree in the body (liver), making it more likely to cause toxicity when taken in excess amounts
  • Certain herbal remedies – cascara, chaparral, comfrey, kava and ephedra are considered to be dangerous to the liver
  • Certain medications – such as methotrexate, isoniazid and Aldomet
  • Congestive heart failure – during congestive heart failure, fluid accumulates in the liver, thereby impairing its ability to rid the body of toxins and produce essential proteins
  • Vascular anomalies – such as Budd-Chairi syndrome which is caused by Hepatic vein obstruction, a blockage of the hepatic vein, which carries blood away from the liver. Hepatic vein obstruction prevents blood from flowing out of the liver and back to the heart. This blockage can cause liver damage
  • Obesity – either as the sole cause or in combination with alcohol
  • Prolonged exposure to toxic substances – common chemicals that can cause liver damage include the dry cleaning solvent carbon tetrachloride, a substance used to make plastics called vinyl chloride, the herbicide paraquat and a group of industrial chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls.

American Liver Foundation “Cirrhosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Parasites – Schistosomiasis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

Mayo Clinic “Cirrhosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

Mayo Clinic “Toxic Hepatitis” Retrieved March 31, 2011 “Cachexia” Retrieved March 31, 2011 “What is Congestive Heart Failure?” Retrieved March 31, 2011

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse “What is Cirrhosis?” Retrieved March 31, 2011

PubMed Health “Cirrhosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011 “Liver Disease in Cystic Fibrosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

US Department of Health and Human Services – National Institutes of Health “What is Cystic Fibrosis?” Retrieved March 31, 2011

US National Library of Medicine NIH National Institutes of Health “Hepatic Vein Obstruction (Budd-Chiari)” Retrieved March 31, 2011

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