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This Month In Health
  • All About Cirrhosis
    Weighing about three pounds, the liver’s primary job is to filter blood from the digestive tract before it travels to other parts of the body. Since it's vital that you keep it healthy, you better know how to recognize one of its most common foes: cirrhosis. Read >>
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    With proper care and regular dental cleanings, your teeth can last for 100 or more years. But taking care of your teeth involves more than just brushing and flossing. It also means avoiding things that can damage them.  Read >>
Health and Fitness News

All About Cirrhosis

What is cirrhosis of the liver and are you at risk?

The liver is a large organ located on your right side underneath your rib cage. Weighing about three pounds, the liver’s primary job is to filter blood from the digestive tract before it travels to other parts of the body. Other duties include secreting enzymes for digestion, metabolizing drugs, detoxifying chemicals, storing nutrients, fighting infections, and producing chemicals for blood clotting.

With all these vital functions, the liver is obviously an organ you want to keep healthy. A common liver condition, cirrhosis, occurs after repeated damage. The earlier it’s treated, the easier it is to treat. Catch it too late and the damage may be irreversible.

Here’s what you should know about cirrhosis of the liver.

Scar Tissue

Cirrhosis arises when scar tissue begins taking over healthy liver cells. Scarring, also called fibrosis, results from damage caused by certain diseases, health conditions, or chronic alcoholism. As the liver attempts to heal itself, scar tissue forms. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent further damage and possibly reverse the damage. In other cases, there comes a point when there’s so much scar tissue that the liver is no longer able to do its jobs. When this happens, the condition is life-threatening.


The tricky thing about cirrhosis is that symptoms typically don’t appear until scar tissue has done extensive damage. At this point, you may experience a loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, swelling in your extremities, bruising or bleeding, itchy skin, weight loss, a yellowing of the eyes and skin, spider veins on your skin, redness on your palms, fluid build-up in your abdomen, or memory problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Causes and Risk Factors

Many different health conditions can lead to cirrhosis, so keeping them under control lowers your risk for cirrhosis. Conditions that may lead to cirrhosis include chronic viral hepatitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cystic fibrosis, Wilson’s disease, sugar metabolism disorders, a syphilis infection, and Alagille syndrome.

On top of these health conditions, being overweight or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol puts you at an increased risk for cirrhosis.


Cirrhosis is diagnosed through a blood test and an imaging test like an MRI or ultrasound. A blood test may reveal abnormal levels of liver enzymes, low protein levels, an abnormal blood count, abnormal antibody levels, or the buildup of bilirubin. A biopsy may also be performed to examine the extent of liver damage.

Compensated cirrhosis indicates liver scarring, but not to the point of interfering with normal function. At this point you may not experience symptoms of cirrhosis. Decompensated cirrhosis is a diagnosis of severe scarring that has caused loss of liver function and symptoms of the disease. Fortunately, even if two-thirds of your liver is damaged from cirrhosis, it can still function if treatment is received.


The goal of cirrhosis treatment is to protect the healthy liver cells you still have. The type of treatment you receive for cirrhosis depends on the severity of the scar tissue. Prior to beginning treatment, you’ll need to treat any health conditions or lifestyle habits that caused the liver damage. This may include treatment for alcohol addiction, weight loss, or taking medication to treat a hepatitis infection.

Your doctor will also treat complications that arise from the disease. Diet modifications and medications are the first line of treatment, but a liver transplant may eventually be necessary. Since liver cancer is a risk, it’s important to get regular screenings.