by EBSCO Medical Review Board

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.

The liver has many roles in the body. It helps make blood clotting factors and bile. It process cholesterol and maintain normal blood sugar levels. It also helps remove toxins like alcohol and drugs from the body. A liver that does not function well can disrupt normal functions in the body. Many of these symptoms are related to these functions being disrupted.

Early symptoms are:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Small, red spider-like blood vessels under the skin

Early symptoms in men may be:

  • Breasts that are enlarged and tender
  • Testicles that look smaller
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Problems maintaining an erection

When the disease worsens, problems may be:

  • Reddened or blotchy palms
  • Loss of body hair
  • Problems sleeping
  • Frequent nosebleeds, skin bruising, or bleeding gums
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • A painful or swollen belly
  • Skin that is itchy
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Vomiting blood
  • Changes in mental function
  • Dark urine or urinating less than normal


Cirrhosis. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: Accessed January 6, 2021.

Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Accessed January 6, 2021.

Cirrhosis of the liver. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed January 6, 2021.

Ge PS, Runyon BA. Treatment of Patients with Cirrhosis. N Engl J Med. 2016 Aug 25;375(8):767-777.

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