If the liver is damaged by a certain diseases and conditions, the organ attempts to heal itself. As a result, permanent scar tissue (cirrhosis) forms and begins to accumulate if damage persists. This scarring makes it difficult for the liver to perform necessary functions, such as detoxifying harmful substances in your body, cleaning your blood, and making vital nutrients.

When caught and treated early, damage can be limited, but advanced cirrhosis can be life threatening.

Who is most at risk for cirrhosis?

  • Those who drink too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cirrhosis.
  • Those who are overweight. Being obese increases your risk of conditions that may lead to cirrhosis, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
  • Those infected with viral hepatitis. Not everyone with chronic hepatitis will develop cirrhosis, but it's one of the world's leading causes of liver disease.

What are the symptoms of cirrhosis?

Until liver damage is extensive, there may be few symptoms of cirrhosis. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Spider-like blood vessels on your skin

Early detection of cirrhosis is crucial. If you have persistent symptoms of cirrhosis, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.

How is cirrhosis diagnosed?

  • Medical and family history
  • Physical exam
  • Blood test
  • Imaging tests
  • Liver biopsy

How is cirrhosis treated?

In the early stages of cirrhosis, the treatment goals are to slow the progression of tissue scarring in the liver and prevent complications. As the scarring progresses, a person may need additional treatments:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and illegal substances
  • Vaccinations and medication for hepatitis A and B
  • Medications
  • Banding, treating varices (enlarged veins in lower esophagus)
  • ERCP, to remove gallstones
  • Combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for liver cancer
  • Liver transplant

If you have concerns about cirrhosis, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.