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Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. Chronic liver disease can cause healthy liver cells to be replaced by scar tissue. The scar tissue causes blood flow interruption, preventing the processing of nutrients, hormones, and toxins.

The most common causes of cirrhosis are Hepatitis C, fatty liver disease, and alcohol liver disease


Cirrhosis may cause no symptoms or nonspecific symptoms so that the liver may not appear to be the cause. Common symptoms include:

  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching
  • Easy bruising 

An early sign can be water and salt retention, causing the legs, ankles, and abdomen to swell. The swelling may lessen overnight or when lying down.


A doctor can examine changes in how your liver feels on an examination. The liver may now feel bumpy rather than smooth.

Blood tests, imaging tests (CT scan or ultrasound), or a liver biopsy can determine if cirrhosis is present.


Cirrhosis of the liver can affect the body as a whole. Complications include:

  • Variceal bleeding: blocked blood flow through the liver can cause increased pressure within the portal vein (this vein takes blood to the liver from the intestines and spleen). Other veins react to this increased pressure and enlarge, which can result in bleeding;
  • Mental changes: confusion can occur as toxins, such as ammonia, usually filtered by the liver are released into the bloodstream;
  • Changes in blood counts;
  • Bleeding and bruising due to poor blood clotting;
  • Breast enlargement in men;
  • Loss of muscle mass;

Many of the above complications can be medically treated.


The key in the treatment of cirrhosis is to eliminate the cause and treat the complications. Liver transplantation may be necessary if cirrhosis is severe.

Cirrhosis increases the risk of liver cancer.

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