Cirrhosis is a liver disease that develops overtime due to prolonged liver damage. This damage is usually the result of long-term alcohol abuse or hepatitis.  

Overview and Symptoms

Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is injured and forms scar tissue to protect itself. Too much of this scar tissue will eventually impede the liver’s ability to carry out vital functions, like detoxifying blood. If left untreated, cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and death.

Symptoms of cirrhosis may not appear until damage to the liver is already extensive. When symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes (jaundice)
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Confusion, slurred speech and drowsiness

The results of cirrhosis are irreversible, but there are several treatment options that a physician may suggest to slow the progression.


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 (NAFLD), 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.

Learn More

The Liver Center at BIDMC brings together an exceptional team of multidisciplinary providers to offer personalized care and the most advanced treatment options to patients with a variety of liver conditions.

Liver Center