Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver is unable to function properly due to chronic injury. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Scarring also impairs the liver’s ability to:
- control infections
- remove bacteria and toxins from the blood
- process nutrients, hormones, and drugs
- make proteins that regulate blood clotting
- produce bile to help absorb fats—including cholesterol—and fat-soluble vitamins
A healthy liver is able to regenerate most of its own cells when they become damaged. With end-stage cirrhosis, the liver can no longer effectively replace damaged cells. A healthy liver is necessary for survival.
Cirrhosis has various causes. In the United States, heavy alcohol consumption and chronic hepatitis C have been the most common causes of cirrhosis. Obesity is becoming a more common cause of cirrhosis, either as the sole cause or in combination with other factors. Many people with cirrhosis have more than one cause of liver damage.
Many people with cirrhosis have no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. However, as the disease progresses, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- abdominal pain and bloating when fluid accumulates in the abdomen
- jaundice or yellowing of the skin
- spiderlike blood vessels on the skin
The diagnosis of cirrhosis is usually confirmed by physical examination, blood tests, and imaging. The doctor will ask about the person’s medical history and symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination to observe for clinical signs of the disease. For example, on abdominal examination, the liver may feel hard or enlarged with signs of ascites, fluid in the abdomen. The doctor will order blood tests that may be helpful in evaluating the liver and increasing the suspicion of cirrhosis.
Treatment for cirrhosis depends on the cause of the disease and whether complications are present. The goals of treatment are to slow the progression of scar tissue in the liver and prevent or treat the complications of the disease.
For more information on Liver Cirrhosis visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
*Information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the Colon Cancer Alliance and