What are the causes?
Cirrhosis doesn't happen overnight. You get damage to your liver over a long period of time. The most common things that raise your odds for cirrhosis are:
- Heavy drinking due to alcohol addiction
- Obesity, which raises your chances of conditions that lead to cirrhosis
- Diseases that make it hard for your body to process sugars
- Wilson's disease, where too much copper is stored in the liver
- Autoimmune diseases that cause your body to attack liver cells
Blockage of the bile duct, which carries digestive enzymes from your liver into the intestines
- A long-term hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection
What Is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection of your liver. It can cause scarring of the organ, liver failure, and cancer. It can be fatal if it isn’t treated.
It’s spread when people come in contact with the blood, open sores, or body fluids of someone who has the hepatitis B virus.
It's serious, but if you get the disease as an adult, it shouldn’t last a long time. Your body fights it off within a few months, and you’re immune for the rest of your life. That means you can't get it again. But if you get it at birth, it’ unlikely to go away.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection that can lead to serious liver damage. It’s caused by the hepatitis C virus. About 3.9 million people in the U.S. have the disease. But it causes few symptoms, so most of them don't know. The virus spreads through an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus, or HCV. The most common in the U.S. is type 1. None is more serious than any other, but they respond differently to treatment.
Stages of Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus affects people in different ways and has several stages:
Incubation period. This is the time between first exposure to the start of the disease. It can last anywhere from 14 to 80 days, but the average is 45
Acute hepatitis C. This is a short-term illness that lasts for the first 6 months after the virus enters your body. After that, some people who have it will get rid of, or clear, the virus on their own.
Chronic hepatitis C. If your body doesn’t clear the virus on its own after 6 months, it becomes a long-term infection. This can lead to serious health problems like liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis. This disease leads to inflammation that, over time, replaces your healthy liver cells with scar tissue. It usually takes about 20 to 30 years for this to happen, though it can be faster if you drink alcohol or have HIV.
Liver cancer. Cirrhosis makes liver cancer more likely. Your doctor will make sure you get regular screenings because there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.