for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Don't you have to be a drinker to get cirrhosis?
No, cirrhosis can result from many things, not just heavy drinking. When something attacks and damages the liver, liver cells are killed and scar tissue is formed. When the whole liver is scarred, it shrinks, hardens, and can stop working properly. This is called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the most severe stage of liver damage.
Heavy drinking is certainly one cause, but any condition or illness that affects the liver over a long period of time eventually could lead to cirrhosis. That includes hepatitis B, hepatitis C, fatty liver from high cholesterol or diabetes, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), and other diseases. Some people have more than one of these conditions (for example, alcohol use plus hepatitis B infection). Sometimes those combinations will speed up the development of cirrhosis.