The liver is severely scarred in cirrhosis. Several other types of liver disorders and ailments, including hepatitis and prolonged alcoholism, can contribute to this dangerous condition.

Your liver strives to heal itself each time it is damaged, whether the damage is the result of drinking too much alcohol or another factor, such as an infection. Scar tissue is created throughout the procedure. Scar tissue accumulates when cirrhosis worsens, making the liver's function more challenging. Life-threatening cirrhosis has advanced stages.

In most cases, cirrhosis-related liver damage cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, additional harm can be prevented if liver cirrhosis is detected early and the underlying cause is addressed. It could reverse under unusual circumstances.

Cirrhosis: Causes

Cirrhosis can result from liver damage brought on by a variety of illnesses and situations. Among the causes are −

  • A protracted alcoholism

  • Persistent viral hepatitis (hepatitis B, C, and D)

  • Fat builds up in the liver in a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

  • An illness called hemochromatosis results in an accumulation of iron in the body

  • The immune system of the body results in a liver illness known as autoimmune hepatitis

  • Biliary duct damage brought on by primary biliary cholangitis

  • Bile duct hardening and scarring brought on by primary sclerosing cholangitis

  • Wilson's disease, a disorder where the liver develops copper buildup

  • CF. Cystic fibrosis

  • A lack of alpha-1 antitrypsin

  • Biliary atresia is a disorder marked by abnormally developed bile ducts

  • Inherited sugar metabolism problems, including galactosemia and glycogen storage disease

  • Alagille syndrome, a hereditary gastrointestinal condition

  • A disease like syphilis or brucellosis

  • Medications, such as isoniazid or methotrexate

Cirrhosis: Symptoms

Cirrhosis frequently goes unnoticed until substantial liver damage has occurred. When symptoms do materialize, they may comprise −

  • Fatigue

  • Bruising or bleeding easily

  • Decrease in appetite

  • Nausea

  • Edema, often known as swelling in the legs, foot, or ankles

  • Loss of weight

  • Rough skin

  • Jaundice is a yellow coloring of the skin and eyes

  • Ascites, a collection of fluid in the abdomen

  • The skin's blood vessels resemble spiders

  • The palms of the hands are red

  • Especially on the thumb and index finger, pale fingernails

  • In clubbing, the fingertips extend out and take on a rounder shape than usual

  • Menopause-unrelated loss or lack of menstruation for women

  • Decrease of sex desire, testicular atrophy, gynecomastia, or enlargement of the breasts

  • Fuzziness, sleepiness, or slurred speech

Cirrhosis: Risk Factors

The major risk factors include −

  • Overindulging in booze. A risk factor for cirrhosis is excessive alcohol use.

  • Weighing too much. Obesity raises the likelihood of ailments including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can both result in cirrhosis.

  • Viral hepatitis is present. Although though cirrhosis does not always result from chronic hepatitis, it is one of the main causes of liver disease worldwide.

Cirrhosis: Diagnosis

Your doctor may request one or more tests to assess your liver, such as −

  • Tests in the lab. To look for indicators of liver dysfunction, such as elevated bilirubin levels or certain enzymes, your doctor may request blood testing. Your blood is examined for creatinine to assess the health of your kidneys. They would check your blood count. You'll undergo testing for hepatitis viruses. Your blood's capacity to clot is also assessed using your international normalized ratio (INR).

  • Your doctor might be able to determine the underlying cause of cirrhosis based on your medical history and the results of blood tests. Blood tests can also be used to determine how severe your cirrhosis is.

  • Image-based exams. It could be advised to undergo certain imaging studies, such as transient or magnetic resonance elastography (MRE). These non-invasive imaging tests check for liver stiffness or liver hardening. The use of other imaging tests including MRI, CT, and ultrasound is also possible.

  • Biopsy. A biopsy, or sample of tissue, is not always required for a diagnosis. But, it could be used by your doctor to determine the extent of the liver damage and what is causing it. If you have cirrhosis, your doctor may advise routine testing to see if the liver disease has advanced or to look for complications, including liver cancer and oesophageal varices. The availability of non-invasive assays for the surveillance of liver disease is expanding.

Cirrhosis: Treatment

The kind and severity of your liver damage will determine how you are treated for cirrhosis. The purpose of therapy is to prevent or treat cirrhosis symptoms and consequences while also slowing the development of scar tissue in the liver. If you have serious liver damage, you might need to be admitted to the hospital.

Medications to treat further cirrhosis causes and symptoms. The advancement of some kinds of liver cirrhosis may be slowed by medication. For those with primary biliary cholangitis who receive an early diagnosis, medication may considerably slow the development of cirrhosis.

Some medications can treat specific symptoms including pain, exhaustion, and itching. Malnutrition brought on by cirrhosis may be treated with nutritional supplements. Vitamins can also help stop osteoporosis, which is characterized by weak bones.

Therapy for Cirrhosis Complications

Your medical professional will strive to treat any cirrhosis side effects, such as −

  • A fluid accumulation throughout your body. Ascites and edema may be managed with the use of a low-sodium diet and medications that stop the body from retaining fluid. Surgery to alleviate pressure or treatments to drain more severe fluid accumulation may be necessary.

  • A portal hypertension. The elevated pressure in the veins that supply the liver, known as portal hypertension, may be controlled by certain blood pressure medications, preventing serious bleeding. An upper endoscopy will often be done by your doctor to check for potentially bleeding big veins in the stomach or esophagus. Varices are the name for these veins. You'll probably require medication to reduce the danger of bleeding if you develop varies.

  • Infections. Antibiotics or other treatments for infections could be given to you. Also, your doctor could advise being immunized against hepatitis, pneumonia, and influenza.

  • Increased risk of liver cancer. Your doctor will probably advise routine blood tests and ultrasounds to check for indicators of liver cancer.

  • Liver encephalopathy. To assist decrease the accumulation of toxins in your blood brought on by impaired liver function, you may be offered medications.

Cirrhosis: Prevention

If you have cirrhosis, avoid drinking. Alcohol shouldn't be consumed if you have liver illness.

  • Adopt a balanced diet. Choose a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Choose lean protein sources and healthy carbohydrates. Reduce the quantity of fried and fatty meals you consume.

  • Keep a healthy weight. Your liver might be harmed by having too much body fat. If you are obese or overweight, talk to your doctor about a weight-loss strategy.

  • Lessen your hepatitis risk. Your risk of contracting hepatitis B and C might rise if you share needles and engage in unprotected sex. Inquire about hepatitis immunizations with your doctor.


The pathological result of the liver's highly preserved reaction to damage is cirrhosis, which is defined by the gradual accumulation of fibrosis tissue and the eventual disruption of normal hepatic architecture.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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