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FAQ: What is cirrhosis?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is the term used to describe a severely scarred liver. Scar tissue forms in the liver when the liver is healing from an injury. For example, heavy alcohol use can cause the liver to become inflamed, which can result in scar tissue developing in the liver. When the injury to the liver is chronic and persistent, scar tissue builds up over time. Eventually, the scarring becomes so severe that the liver is considered "cirrhotic." A person with a severely scarred liver is considered to have cirrhosis.

The liver can have some scar tissue and still perform its usual functions: producing proteins for blood clotting, producing albumin for maintaining fluid balances, and breaking down toxins and medications. However, a cirrhotic liver eventually will be unable to function normally, and the person with cirrhosis will become ill. Many factors can cause cirrhosis, most commonly long-term, heavy alcohol use and chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection. More on cirrhosis