Cirrhosis is caused by scar tissue that forms in your liver in response to damage occurring over many years. Each time your liver is injured, it tries to repair itself. In the process, scar tissue forms. As the scar tissue builds up, liver function worsens. In advanced cirrhosis, the liver no longer works very well.

It's important to determine the cause of cirrhosis because treating that underlying cause can help prevent further liver damage. A wide range of diseases and conditions can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis.

Some of the causes of cirrhosis are inherited or thought to be inherited:

  • Iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Copper accumulated in the liver (Wilson's disease)
  • Poorly formed bile ducts (biliary atresia)
  • Inherited disorders of sugar metabolism (galactosemia or glycogen storage disease)
  • Genetic digestive disorder (Alagille syndrome)
  • Liver disease caused by your body's immune system (autoimmune hepatitis)

Others occur later in life:

  • Chronic alcohol abuse
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B
  • Fat accumulating in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • Destruction of the bile ducts (primary biliary cirrhosis)
  • Hardening and scarring of the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • Infection by a parasite common in developing countries (schistosomiasis)
Some people may have more than one cause for cirrhosis, such as alcohol abuse and viral hepatitis. If doctors cannot find a cause for your condition, it's called cryptogenic cirrhosis. Up to 20 percent of people with cirrhosis have cryptogenic cirrhosis.
Aug. 16, 2014