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Quick Facts

Cirrhosis of the Liver


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
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What is your liver?

Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It has many important jobs:

  • To make a liquid (bile) that helps your body digest fat

  • To process nutrients from your digestive tract

  • To make proteins that help your blood clot

  • To help break down drugs and poisons so your body can get rid of them

The Digestive System

The Digestive System

What is cirrhosis of the liver?

Cirrhosis is a disease in which scar tissue replaces normal liver tissue. The scar tissue grows when your liver is damaged repeatedly over time.

What are the complications of cirrhosis?

Severe cirrhosis that goes on for a long time can cause several problems:

Liver failure causes many serious complications:

  • Excessive bleeding

  • Brain dysfunction (your brain won't work properly)

  • Kidney failure

  • Difficulty digesting and absorbing food

Portal hypertension causes blood to back up in the veins connected to the liver. These veins may enlarge and twist. The veins at the lower end of the esophagus, in the stomach, or in the rectum may be affected. Enlarged, twisted veins are fragile and prone to bleeding, so you may:

  • Vomit large amounts of blood

  • Pass a lot of blood from your rectum

What causes cirrhosis?

What are the symptoms of cirrhosis?

Many people with cirrhosis don’t have any symptoms for years.

When you do get symptoms, they can include:

If your cirrhosis is caused by alcohol or a long-term liver disorder, you may also have:

How can doctors tell if I have cirrhosis?

How do doctors treat cirrhosis?

There is no cure for cirrhosis. The liver damage is permanent. Doctors will treat your symptoms. You can also help keep the cirrhosis from getting worse by doing the following:

  • Give you certain medicines called beta-blockers to lower the pressure in the liver veins

  • Look down your throat with a flexible scope and close off the enlarged veins by injecting them with a substance or putting special rubber bands around them

If those things don't work, your doctor may put a thin plastic tube in the veins of your liver to re-route the blood and lower the pressure. This is called a TIPS procedure.

If your liver is very bad and barely working, you may need a liver transplant Liver Transplantation Liver transplantation is the surgical removal of a healthy liver or sometimes a part of a liver from a living person and then its transfer into a person whose liver no longer functions. (See... read more (surgery to replace your bad liver with a healthy one). Because alcohol will damage your new liver too, doctors usually do a transplant only if you have stopped drinking.

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