Cirrhosis is a disease in which the liver becomes severely scarred, usually as a result of many years of continuous injury. Common causes of cirrhosis include alcohol abuse and Hepatitis C. In advanced stages, cirrhosis is usually irreversible, so treatment may involve symptom management. If the disease is in its earlier stages and underlying causes can be treated, cirrhosis may be reversible.
People with cirrhosis of the liver sometimes have no symptoms, especially in earlier stages of the disease. However, cirrhosis can cause a long list of symptoms, which may or may not occur together. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Weakness & fatigue
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Unexplained weight loss
There are various liver diseases and conditions that can lead to cirrhosis. In the United States, the two most common causes are alcohol abuse and Hepatitis C, which together account for roughly half of the people awaiting liver transplants.
If your digestive health provider suspects cirrhosis, they will usually order an imaging test, often an ultrasound, as well as blood tests. They may also order a biopsy, which involves obtaining a sample of liver tissue to be examined.
In cirrhosis, scar tissue partially blocks the flow of blood, increasing pressure in the portal vein, which carries blood to the liver from other organs. Portal hypertension is common in cirrhosis and may lead to other complications.
Cirrhosis treatment is determined by various factors, including the stage of the disease and the underlying cause. In general, treatment may involve:
- Slowing or reversing the underlying cause and managing symptoms
- Identification and treatment of existing complications
- Protecting the liver from other sources of damage