Cirrhosis of the Liver: Symptoms

By Spader, Catherine, MD

What are the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver?

Most people with cirrhosis of the liver experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, because small amounts of liver scarring do not significantly affect liver function. When symptoms of cirrhosis develop, they may include:

If the underlying cause of cirrhosis of the liver, such as alcoholism, is not addressed, the disease can advance and cause more severe damage to the liver tissue. This can result in symptoms such as:

  • Easy bruising

  • Itching

  • Nosebleeds

  • Small red, spider-like blood vessels under the skin

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

Cirrhosis of the liver is a serious disease that can lead to life-threatening complications, such as liver failure, esophageal varices, and hemorrhage. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Ascites (a buildup of fluid and swelling in the abdomen)

  • Bleeding, such as vomiting blood or heavy rectal bleeding

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions

  • Edema (swelling) in the legs

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

  • Muscle tremors or shakiness

  • Poor cognitive functioning, due to the liver’s inability to filter toxins and a buildup of waste products in the blood and brain

  • Severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing


What is cirrhosis of the liver?

Cirrhosis of the liver is a serious disease that causes permanent damage to the liver. The liver is a vital organ located in the right upper area of your abdomen under the ribs. Normal liver function is crucial to your overall health and life. Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by an underlying disease or condition that leads to the formation of scar tissue in the liver. Scar tissue reduces the liver's ability to carry out vital functions including:... Read more about cirrhosis of the liverintroduction


What causes cirrhosis of the liver?

Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by an underlying disease or condition that results in inflammation and the formation of scar tissue in the liver. Some types of cirrhosis are preceded by a condition called steatohepatitis, commonly referred to as a fatty liver, which is a buildup of fat cells and enlargement of the liver. If the cause of fatty liver is not addressed, it can eventually lead to permanent scarring (fibrosis) of liver tissue. Left untreated, scarring progresses and replaces healthy tissue. Scarred liver tissue cannot function normally and can eventually lead to liver failure.... Read more about cirrhosis of the livercauses

Medical Reviewer: Williams, Robert, MD Last Annual Review Date: May 11, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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