Overview

This condition is a gradual and progressive destruction of tissue in the liver. Over time, healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue. This results in a loss of liver function.

Causes

Cirrhosis commonly results from infection by the hepatitis virus. Cirrhosis can be caused by alcohol use and exposure to drugs or chemicals. It can also be caused by inherited conditions such as cystic fibrosis, and by other conditions and diseases.

Symptoms

Symptoms can include weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea. Symptoms may also include vomiting, weight loss, and abdominal pain. The person may feel bloated and itchy, and may develop spider-like blood vessels on the skin.

Complications

As liver function deteriorates, a person who has cirrhosis may develop jaundice. This is a yellowing of the skin and white part of the eyes. The person may also develop gallstones, sensitivity to medications, and bleeding in the esophagus and stomach. Cirrhosis can result in a reduced platelet count in the bloodstream. This can cause the person to bruise and bleed easily. It may cause an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and legs. The person may develop an enlarged liver, and may experience a buildup of toxins in the blood that are normally removed by a healthy liver.

Treatment

Treatment options may include a healthy diet and restriction of alcohol and other drugs. A person who has cirrhosis may need kidney dialysis to clean waste from the bloodstream, along with medications to treat complications of the disease. Cirrhosis may progress to the point where treatment options are no longer effective, and the liver's function is severely diminished. This is called end-stage liver failure. The only treatment is liver transplantation, but, in certain cases, transplant may not be an option.