Symptoms and Signs of Cirrhosis of the Liver

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/22/2021

Doctor's Notes on Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis refers to scarring of the liver with loss of normal liver cells. It develops as a complication of a number of different conditions that can cause liver damage. Alcohol abuse and alcohol damage to the liver is a common cause of cirrhosis, along with viral hepatitis B and C. However, there are other causes of cirrhosis. Toxic metals and other chemicals may cause liver damage leading to scarring. In certain genetic diseases, toxic metals or fats accumulate in the liver to abnormal amounts. Autoimmune liver disease in which the body's immune system attacks the liver is another potential cause. 

Some people with cirrhosis may have few or no symptoms or signs of liver disease. Others may show some common symptoms and signs of cirrhosis including:

  • jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, 
  • fatigue,
  • weakness, and
  • loss of appetite.

Other associated symptoms can include itching and easy bruising due to decreased production by the liver of the substances needed for blood clotting.

Individuals with cirrhosis also develop symptoms and signs from the complications of cirrhosis like hepatic encephalopathy or ascites.

What Is the Treatment for Cirrhosis of the Liver?

Treatment for cirrhosis of the liver may involve therapies directed at the underlying cause of the condition, such as treatment for alcohol abuse, weight loss for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or treatments for underlying viral infections. 

Treatments to control the symptoms of cirrhosis are varies and individualized for each patient. Treatments may include:

  • Blood pressure medications to control the increased blood pressure in the veins to the liver
  • Medications to prevent fluid accumulation in the body
  • A low-sodium diet to prevent fluid accumulation
  • Procedures to ligate dilated veins (varices)
  • Medications to reduce encephalopathy due to toxin accumulation
  • Liver transplantation

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.