MSD Manual

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Complications of Cirrhosis

Complications of Cirrhosis


Possible Cause

Swelling of the abdomen

Abdominal discomfort, often with fever

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (infection of fluid that has accumulated within the abdomen)

Calf pain or swelling

Confusion and drowsiness

Difficulty breathing

Fatigue and pale skin

Anemia due to any of the following:

  • Bleeding

  • An enlarged spleen

  • Undernutrition with a deficiency of folate, iron, or vitamin B12

  • Chronic excessive alcohol use, which can interfere with the production of blood cells

Reduced urination and difficulty breathing

Hepatorenal syndrome (kidney failure due to liver failure)

Fractures, often due to slight trauma such as a minor fall

Symptoms of infection

Leukopenia (reduced number of white blood cells)

Impaired processing of bilirubin (a waste product formed when old or damaged red blood cells are broken down)

Easy bruising or a tendency to bleed easily

A reddish purple rash of tiny dots or larger splotches, which indicate bleeding in the skin

An enlarged spleen, which traps platelets (needed to help blood clot)

Chronic excessive alcohol use, which can interfere with the production of platelets

A deficiency of vitamin K

Reduced production of clotting factors (proteins that help blood clot) by the damaged liver

Itching (pruritis) and small yellow deposits of fat in the skin or eyelids (jaundice)

Impaired processing of bile

Rectal bleeding

Varicose veins in the rectum (rectal varices)

An enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)

Light-colored, soft, bulky, oily-looking, and unusually foul-smelling stools (steatorrhea)

Impaired absorption of fats

Vomiting of blood

Bleeding of varicose veins at the lower end of the esophagus (esophageal varices) or in the stomach (gastric varices) due to portal hypertension