What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis occurs when the liver has suffered repeated damage for a long period of time, often due to recurring bouts of hepatitis or chronic alcoholism.

As the body's largest internal solid organ, the liver is responsible for flushing out waste products, including toxins from medications and alcohol as well fats and cholesterol. The liver generally takes care of itself, producing new cells when old ones are damaged. However, when the liver is damaged repeatedly over time, it's not able to regenerate quickly enough. Instead, its attempts to generate new cells result in scar tissue that hinder the liver's ability to perform its functions. This scarring, called fibrosis, leads to cirrhosis.

Symptoms of cirrhosis

You can live with cirrhosis for a long time without having any symptoms at all. As the liver scarring worsens, however, you may start to notice symptoms such as:

  • Confusion, slurred speech
  • Fluid accumulation in your abdomen
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Redness in the palms of your hands

You may experience other symptoms of cirrhosis not listed here. You may also be more susceptible to cirrhosis if you have another disorder such as cystic fibrosis, fatty tissue in the liver, or an infection like schistosomiasis.

Cirrhosis treatment options

There is no cure for cirrhosis, but depending on the cause of your disease, treatment may involve a combination of lifestyle changes and medication to prevent further liver cell damage and minimize complications. Liver transplant is an option for some suitable candidates.

Our Main Line Health gastroenterologists strive to help slow down the progression of cirrhosis with medications, therapies and treatments designed to help you live as fully and comfortably as possible.



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