Cirrhosis

Front view of female outline showing digestive system and liver with cirrhosis.

The liver is found on the right side of your belly (abdomen). It's just below the rib cage. The liver has many important jobs. It removes toxins from the blood. It also helps your blood clot to stop bleeding. Cirrhosis happens when the liver is scarred or injured. This damage is permanent. It can cause your liver to stop working (liver failure). 

The most common causes of cirrhosis are long-term heavy alcohol use and having hepatitis B or C. Other causes include nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH or fatty liver disease), autoimmune disease, hemochromatosis, toxins, certain medicines, and certain viruses.

Common symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Tiredness or weakness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Easy bleeding and bruising

  • Swelling of the belly (abdomen)

  • Weight loss

  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice)

  • Itching

  • Confusion

Treatment helps ease symptoms and prevent more liver damage. You may also get treatment to fight  or cure the hepatitis virus. Quitting alcohol will help slow down the disease getting worse. It may also prevent more complications. If cirrhosis gets worse and becomes life threatening, you may need a liver transplant. 

Home care

  • Don't take medicines that can make liver damage worse. Your healthcare provider will tell you if any of the medicines you now take need to be changed. Talk with your provider or pharmacist before taking any medicine not prescribed. These include dietary supplements and herbs. Some of these may make liver damage worse.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about medicines that have acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These can also harm your liver. 

  • Stop drinking alcohol. If you find it hard to stop drinking, seek professional help. Consider joining Alcoholics Anonymous or another type of treatment program for support.

  • If you use IV drugs, you are at high risk for hepatitis B and C. Seek help to stop. 

  • Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about recommended vaccines. These include vaccines for viruses that can cause liver disease.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If you have cirrhosis, you may need more testing to look for complications, including liver cancer.

For more information and to learn about support groups for people with liver disease, contact:

  • American Liver Foundation, www.liverfoundation.org, 800-465-4837

  • Hepatitis Foundation International, , www.hepatitisfoundation.org, 800-891-0707

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Rapid weight gain with increased size of your belly (abdomen) or leg swelling

  • Yellow color of your skin or eyes (jaundice) gets worse

  • Excess bleeding from cuts or injuries

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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