Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver is repeatedly scarred and no longer functions properly. It is a condition that may get progressively worse for years without a person even knowing. This type of chronic liver injury leads to end-stage liver disease, and can be fatal. Every year 4,000 people die of cirrhosis in the UK.
It is unlikely that you will feel any symptoms of cirrhosis in the early stages. Once the liver starts to fail, a loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea and itchy skin are common.
In the later stages when the liver is barely functioning, more serious symptoms are jaundice, vomiting blood, hair loss, shaking hands, forgetfulness and fluid build-up in the legs and abdomen. Health complications include liver cancer, loss of brain function and renal failure.
The most common cause of cirrhosis is hepatitis. Globally, 57 per cent of cirrhosis is due to hepatitis B and C.  In the UK, excessive alcohol consumption is also a leading reason for cirrhosis. Other conditions that lead to cirrhosis include autoimmune liver diseases and rare genetic conditions, such as haemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.
Hepatitis refers to a disease of the liver categorised by liver tissue inflammation and damage. Over a considerable amount of time, irreversible damage to the liver from hepatitis will cause cirrhosis. The most common cause of hepatitis is from needle sharing.
When alcohol is metabolised, it is converted into a toxic substance known as acetaldehyde. High levels of acetaldehyde in the liver cause serious damage to the surrounding tissue, and if the liver is exposed to these toxins regularly, irreversible damage may be done.  Drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week increases your risk of developing cirrhosis.
Alcohol-related liver damage comes in three stages. Fatty liver disease, the first stage, is a reversible condition attributed to the build-up of fat in the liver cells. If you continue to drink after being diagnosed with fatty liver disease, it is likely that you will develop the second stage, alcoholic hepatitis. This entails liver inflammation and can result in death. The third stage is cirrhosis.
As cirrhosis can’t be cured, treatment is aimed at easing symptoms and preventing further liver deterioration. For alcohol-induced cirrhosis, alcohol must no longer be consumed, as this will stop the liver from becoming more damaged. For hepatitis, staying in bed to rest, refraining from alcohol consumption and taking certain medications will make up your treatment.
As the liver is involved in food processing, what you eat may have an effect on the liver’s health. It is advisable to avoid spicy, oily and heavy foods. Cutting down on refined flour and high-sugar snacks such as cakes and chocolate may also help your liver to recover.