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How cirrhosis affects the liver

The liver is the largest solid organ in the human body and serves many functions. It acts as a storage device and a distributor for nutrients in the bloodstream. The liver also creates necessary proteins for the blood to properly transport oxygen, clot, and support immune system functions. It also manufactures bile, necessary to aid in the digestion of food. It also stores sugar, also known as glucose. And lastly, it also acts as a filter, breaking down cholesterol and saturated fat, as well as filtering out harmful substances that enter the body such as alcohol and drugs and naturally produced toxins.

When healthy liver tissue starts to scar, it is called cirrhosis. This prevents the liver from functioning properly, and can lead to many serious issues. In fact, according to studies by the National Institute of Health, cirrhosis is among the leading causes of death by disease in the United States, ranked in the top twelve.

Although cirrhosis is commonly associated with victims of Hepatitis C and alcohol abuse, there are many other causes including fatty liver, commonly caused by diabetes or obesity, repeated heart failure which causes fluid to back up to the liver, cystic fibrosis, a blockage in the bile duct which causes bile to back up back to the liver, hemochromatosis, and Wilson's disease, which is the abnormal storage of copper in the liver. It may also be caused by substance abuse, environmental toxins and even parasitic infections.

Cirrhosis can cause significant pain and disabilities to its victims. Forms of liver disease are included among Social Security Ddisability benefits for illness if it can be proven that the debilitating condition is expected to last at least a year or end in death.

Source: WebMD, "Cirrhosis of the Liver," Accessed Feb. 14, 2017

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