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:
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:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
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:
Medication may be advised to:
Liver transplant —may be done if:
Endoscopy may be used to tie off bleeding blood vessels 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 blood vessels, which are located in the esophagus.
To help reduce your chances of cirrhosis:
American Gastroenterological Association
American Liver Foundation
Canadian Liver Foundation
Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/cirrhosis. Updated April 2014. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Cirrhosis of the liver. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114078/Cirrhosis-of-the-liver. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Hirschfield GM, Gershwin ME. Primary biliary cirrhosis: one disease with many faces. Isr Med Assoc J. 2011;13(1):55-59.
Molodecky NA, Kareemi H, Parab R, Barkema HW, Quan H, Myers RP, Kaplan GG. Incidence of primary sclerosing cholangitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Hepatology. 2011;53(5):1590-1599.
Starr PS, Raines D. Cirrhosis: Diagnosis, management, and prevention. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(12):1353-1359.
2/12/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116915/Nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease-NAFLD: 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 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.