by Debra Wood, RN
Cirrhosis is a disease in which the liver becomes permanently damaged and the normal structure of the liver is changed. Healthy liver cells are replaced by scarred tissue. The liver is not able to do its normal functions, such as detoxifying harmful substances, purifying blood, and making vital nutrients.
In addition, scarring slows down the normal flow of blood through the liver, causing blood to find alternate pathways. This may result in bleeding blood vessels known as gastric or esophageal varices.
Causes of cirrhosis include:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chance of having cirrhosis include:
Cirrhosis often does not cause symptoms early in the disease process. Symptoms start when the liver begins to fail, as scar tissue replaces healthy cells. Symptom severity depends on the extent of liver damage.
Cirrhosis may cause:
As cirrhosis progresses, it may cause:
Complications of cirrhosis may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Other tests may include:
There is no cure for cirrhosis. The goals of treatment are to keep the condition from getting worse, including:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Doctors prescribe drugs to:
Liver transplant —may be done if:
Endoscopy —This is used to tie off bleeding blood vessels (varices) or to inject drugs to cause clotting. A thin tool with a lighted tip is inserted down the throat to help the doctor see and access the varices, which are located in the esophagus.
If you are diagnosed with cirrhosis, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chance of developing cirrhosis, take these steps:
American Gastroenterological Association
American Liver Foundation
American Academy of Family Physicians. Information from your family doctor. Cirrhosis and chronic liver failure: what you should know. Am Fam Physician. 2006;75(5):781.
Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis . Updated February 21, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2013.
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2/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Chang Y, Ryu S, Sung E, et al. Weight gain within the normal weight range predicts ultrasonographically detected fatty liver in healthy Korean men. Gut . 2009;58(10):1419-1425.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013