Cirrhosis is an abnormal liver condition in which there is irreversible scarring of the liver. The main causes are sustained excessive alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis B and C, and fatty liver disease - however, there are many possible causes.
People with cirrhosis may develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes and tongue), itching and extreme tiredness.
For cirrhosis to develop long-term, continuous damage to the liver needs to occur. When healthy liver tissue is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue the condition becomes serious, as it can start blocking the flow of blood through the liver.
Cirrhosis is a progressive disease, developing slowly over many years, until eventually it can stop liver function (liver failure).
The liver carries out several essential functions, including the detoxification of harmful substances in the body. It also purifies the blood and manufactures vital nutrients.
If cirrhosis is mild the liver can make repairs and continue functioning properly. If the cirrhosis is advanced and more and more scar tissue forms in the liver, the damage is irreparable. The liver tissue is replaced by fibrous scar tissue as well as regenerative nodules (lumps that appear as a consequence of a process in which damaged tissue is regenerated). What are the signs and symptoms of cirrhosis? A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, including a doctor or a nurse may detect. For example, pain may be a symptom while a rash may be a sign.
Symptoms are not common during the early stages of cirrhosis. However, as scar tissue accumulates the liver's ability to function properly is undermined. The following signs and symptoms may occur:
Blood capillaries become visible on the skin on the upper abdomen
Loss of appetite
Loss of bodyweight
Pain or tenderness in the area where the liver is located
Red or blotchy palms
The following signs and symptoms may appear as the disease progresses:
Abdomen fills up with fluid, giving the patient a large tummy (ascites)
Altered personality (as blood toxins build up and affect the brain)
Body and upper arms lose mass
Body finds it harder to process alcohol
Body finds it harder to process drugs
Fluid buildup on ankles, feet and legs (edema)
Higher susceptibility to bruising
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and tongue)
Loss of libido (sex drive)
More frequent fevers (susceptibility to infections)
Pain on the right shoulder
Stools become black and tarry, or very pale
Urine becomes darker
Walking problems (staggering).