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
Causes of cirrhosis include:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors 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.
Early symptoms include:
Later symptoms, some due to complications, include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.
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:
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
To decrease the risk of cirrhosis:
American College of Gastroenterology
American Gastroenterological Association
American Liver Foundation
Canadian Liver Foundation
Cirrhosis. National Guideline Clearinghouse website. Available at:
http://www.guideline.gov. Accessed July 9, 2009.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis. Published December 2008. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Cirrhosis and chronic liver failure: what you should know. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060901/781ph.html. Published September 2006. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Cirrhosis of the liver. AGA Patient Center.
American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at:
http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/cirrhosis-of-the-liver. Accessed July 9, 2009.
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Last reviewed October 2012 by
Marcin Chwistek, 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.
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