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.

Your doctor can diagnose cirrhosis with blood tests, imaging tests or a biopsy.

Cirrhosis can lead to:

  • 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.

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

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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