Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver that causes permanent damage. The scar tissue causes problems with blood flow and prevents the liver from working as it should. This can disrupt normal functions in the body.
Cirrhosis often does not cause symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms start when scar tissue replaces healthy cells and the liver begins to fail. The symptoms a person has depends on the amount of damage.
Problems may be:
Feeling tired and weak
Lack of hunger
Small, red spider-like blood vessels under the skin
Breasts that are enlarged and tender in men
Problems maintaining an erection
When the disease worsens, problems may be:
Loss of body hair
Bleeding and bruising
Belly swelling, tenderness, and pain
Yellowing of the skin or eyes
Changes in mental function
Swelling in the legs and belly
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests will be done to look for signs of liver problems.
A liver biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. A needle is used to take a sample of tissue from the liver. A lab will look for signs of scarring or disease in the tissue.
Other tests may be done to look for the cause or severity.
Any underlying causes will need to be treated.
There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage, manage symptoms, and lower the risk of problems. Choices are:
Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/cirrhosis. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Cirrhosis of the liver. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cirrhosis-of-the-liver-31. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Ge PS, Runyon BA. Treatment of Patients with Cirrhosis. N Engl J Med. 2016 Aug 25;375(8):767-777.
Hepatitis C: screening. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/hepatitis-c-screening?ds=1&s=hepatitis%20C. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 2/9/2021
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