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WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Cirrhosis

Description: Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver is damaged and scarred, interfering with its functions. Though the scarring is permanent, it may be possible to stop progression by treating the cause. Alcoholism and chronic hepatitis are the most prevalent causes of cirrhosis in the U.S.

Symptoms: Fatigue and loss of energy are common, along with loss of appetite and nausea, although many people experience few symptoms at the onset of cirrhosis. Spider angiomas -- pinhead-sized red spots from which tiny blood vessels radiate -- may develop on the skin. Patients in later stages develop jaundice, a yellowish cast to the skin and eyes, which is caused when the liver cannot process bilirubin for elimination from the body. The palms of the hands may be reddish and blotchy, and patients may lose body hair.

Number of Americans diagnosed: Cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of death by disease in the U.S., killing over 25,000 people each year.

Long-term problems/treatments: The most serious complications of cirrhosis are bleeding, infections, and encephalopathy -- damage to the brain. Nearly every bodily process is affected by a damaged liver, including those of the digestive, hormonal, and circulatory systems. Cirrhosis is also a cause of liver cancer. In general, no treatments exist for the basic mechanisms that cause cirrhosis and its complications, although some therapies are in clinical trials.
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The USC Liver Transplant Program and Center for Liver Disease

The PBC Foundation

The PBCers Organization

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