What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. Scar tissue forms because of injury or long-term disease. Healthy liver tissue makes proteins, helps fight infections, cleans the blood, helps digest food and stores energy. Scarred liver tissue cannot do this as well as healthy tissue.

Our liver disease experts can diagnose cirrhosis with blood tests, imaging tests or a biopsy.

Cirrhosis Symptoms

  • Easy bruising, bleeding or nosebleeds
  • Swelling of the abdomen or legs
  • Extra sensitivity to medicines
  • High blood pressure in the vein entering the liver
  • Enlarged veins, called varices, in the esophagus and stomach, which can suddenly bleed
  • Kidney failure
  • Jaundice
  • Severe itching
  • Gallstones

A small number of people with cirrhosis get liver cancer.

What causes cirrhosis? 

Cirrhosis has many causes. In the United States, the most common causes are chronic alcoholism and hepatitis

Being overweight can also lead to cirrhosis if a patient develops fatty liver disease.


Cirrhosis is often first suspected when routine blood work comes back with abnormal liver values.

Your doctor may perform additional tests to further evaluate the liver, including:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Biopsy

Cirrhosis Treatment

Although little can be done to heal scar tissue, treating underlying causes can prevent additional liver damage. If the liver damage is extensive, a patient may require a liver transplant.

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