Cirrhosis is a liver disease, characterized by a progressive destruction of liver cells (hepatocytes); these are then replaced with fibrous tissue, which gradually leads to hardening and less effectiveness of the organ. Clumps of small nodules give the cirrhotic liver a knobbly appearance.
The most common cause of cirrhosis is alcoholism. The quantity of alcohol necessary to damage the liver varies with each individual, but it is generally accepted that drinking for ten years at the rate of five pints a day or ten single whiskies can cause cirrhosis.
Viral hepatitis (there are two types, A and B) can also lead to cirrhosis. The virus responsible may be transmitted in blood from hypodermic needles or blood transfusions, and in drinking contaminated water. Virus A virtually never causes cirrhosis.
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