Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. Scar tissue, which forms because of chronic injury or inflammation, replaces healthy liver tissue and blocks the normal flow of blood through the liver. A liver with too much scar tissue cannot work properly but early treatment can control symptoms and keep cirrhosis from getting worse.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abnormal blood vessels on skin (spider angiomata)
  • Breast enlargement in men (gynecomastia)
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Jaundice
  • Palm redness

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing cirrhosis of the liver include:

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Chronic hepatitis B or C
  • Some drugs, medicines, and harmful chemicals
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Other chronic conditions, such as autoimmune hepatitis, diseases that damage or destroy bile ducts, hemochromatosis, Wilson disease, and porphyria

When to See a Doctor

If you have symptoms consistent with cirrhosis of the liver, see a doctor for a thorough exam and consultation. Early treatment can control symptoms and prevent your condition from worsening.

Treatment Options

Treatment options will vary and are dependent on the cause of the cirrhosis.

Diagnostic Testing

The foremost diagnostic “test” for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:

  • Liver Biopsy
  • Imaging tests (which may include one or more of the following: ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan, MRI scan)

Prevention

Many of the causes of cirrhosis are treatable or preventable and you should discuss any risk factors with your physician. Once you have cirrhosis, it is difficult to get the scar tissue go away. But, treating the cause may keep the cirrhosis from getting worse, and in some conditions reduce the scar tissue.

Learn More

Learn more about cirrhosis of the liver with resources from the National Institutes of Health.

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