Cirrhosis is a condition that occurs due to heavy drinking. Excessive alcohol use causes liver damage.

Overview and Symptoms

Each time the liver is injured, it heals itself but in the process, scar tissue forms. As cirrhosis progresses, more and more scar tissue forms, which makes it difficult for the liver to function and ultimately this may result in liver failure.

Cirrhosis may have no symptoms until the liver damage is very severe. If there are symptoms, they include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Swelling in legs
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech

Diagnosis and Treatment at BIDMC

Since early-stage cirrhosis does not have symptoms, it is often detected during a routine checkup or blood test. Diagnosis can also be made by imaging tests of the abdomen such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, or by non-invasive testing. After diagnosis, other blood tests will include liver and kidney function tests, tests for Hepatitis A, B and C and the body’s ability to clot.

If the cirrhosis is caused by heavy drinking of alcohol, it is important to stop drinking. If cirrhosis is caused by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, losing weight and controlling blood sugar levels can help. Treatment can also include medications that can help slow the progress of cirrhosis and limit further damage to the liver. Vaccinations against Hepatitis B or C, influenza, pneumonia are also recommended.

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The Liver Center at BIDMC
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