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Disease & Condition, Liver Cirrhosis

Guide to Liver Cirrhosis: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Stages, Treatment

HealthcareOnTime Team 2022-02-07 2023-07-22 3 Min Read
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  • liver cirrhosis stages of liver cirrhosis

    What Is Liver Cirrhosis?

    Cirrhosis of the liver is a late-stage disease in the liver that replaces healthy liver tissues with scar liver tissues and causes permanent damage to the liver. This restricts your liver from functioning properly and can progress into something fatal as time goes by.

    There are many liver conditions or diseases, like cirrhosis, which causes injury to the liver cells and can lead to severe liver inflammation. Cell repair for these conditions in the liver causes the tissues to scar. These scar tissues can cause cirrhosis of the liver and create a lot of other complications as well.

    Scar tissues in the liver can block the proper flow of blood, which slows down the liver's ability to process hormones, nutrients, natural toxins, drugs, and more. They can also significantly reduce the liver's production of substances like protein. Late-stage cirrhosis can be life-threatening and may require extra care and treatments.

    Causes Of Liver Cirrhosis

    When we talk about liver cirrhosis causes, the list primarily includes some of the following activities and/or medical conditions that increase your chances of suffering from liver cirrhosis:

    • If you have been consuming alcohol regularly for many years
    • If you have an accumulation of fat in the liver, also called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
    • If you have viral hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • If you have diabetes, it increases the chances of developing scar tissues in your liver, which can lead to cirrhosis
    • If you have too much iron built up in your body for an extended period
    • Wilson’s disease, which is the accumulation of too much copper in your liver
    • If you have inherited any medical disorders that affect your sugar metabolism, like galactosemia
    • If you have bile ducts in your body that are poorly formed
    • If you have autoimmune hepatitis, which has caused liver diseases in the past
    • Various infections like brucellosis and syphilis
    • Consumption of medications like isoniazid or methotrexate

    Other things can also cause cirrhosis, such as unprotected sex, consumption of drugs, using shared needles, and obesity.

    If you have partaken in any of these conditions or activities, get a liver test to confirm its health and ensure you have not developed any liver diseases.

    Symptoms Of Liver Cirrhosis

    Cirrhosis is a very stealthy condition that builds up over time. The signs of cirrhosis of the liver are very sneaky and mostly show up when the liver damage is already extensive or permanent.

    Some of the liver cirrhosis symptoms include:

    • Regular extensive fatigue 
    • Loss of regular appetite
    • Periodic nausea regularly
    • Swelling up in your feet, ankles, or leg (also called edema)
    • Increase in itching on the skin
    • Jaundice (yellow coloration in eyes and on the skin)
    • Rapid weight loss
    • Ascites (accumulation of fluid in your abdomen)
    • Increase in the redness on your palms
    • Slurred speech, constant drowsiness, and confusion (hepatic encephalopathy)
    • The appearance of spider-like blood vessels
    • Sudden loss of periods or premature menopause that are not related to menstrual conditions for women
    • Gynecomastia (enlargement of breasts) and testicular atrophy in men

    Other signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis include excruciating and long-lasting pain in the abdomen as the condition worsens. It can start as a dull pain that feels like throbbing and, with time, can convert into chronic stabbing-like pain under your ribs or above the upper abdomen area. This is due to the enlargement of the spleen and accumulation of fluids due to cirrhosis of the liver.

    If you exhibit any of these signs, consult your doctor and get tested as soon as possible.

    What are the Different Types of Liver cirrhosis?

    Medical science categorizes liver cirrhosis into five stages, namely: 

    • Stage 1: Inflammation - When the liver cannot reroute toxins out of our body, it leads to toxic imbalance and organ swelling.
    • Stage 2: Scarring - This triggers when the inflammation is left untreated for a long time and starts affecting the liver and its overall efficiency.
    • Stage 3: Cirrhosis - In this stage, the liver is severely scarred and is unable to heal itself 
    • Stage 4: Liver Failure (End Stage Liver Disease) - It's the last stage of liver cirrhosis; the liver takes years to reach this stage. Liver failure can either be acute or chronic. The former usually occurs due to drug overdose, while the latter is due to alcohol poisoning.
    • Stage 5: Liver Cancer - When cancer starts, it's called primary liver cancer. It can occur at any stage, but folks with cirrhosis are more likely to develop liver cancer.

    Stages Of Cirrhosis: What to Expect

    If you have already received a diagnosis of cirrhosis, you are already ahead of the early stages of this disease. However, these are the two primary liver cirrhosis stages that you must know about:

    Compensated Cirrhosis

    This is the asymptomatic stage of cirrhosis and means you have liver cirrhosis but have not started developing any symptoms yet. It can only be diagnosed and confirmed with a liver biopsy at an early stage. This is because the imaging and lab work findings might not show anything abnormal. The average survival for patients diagnosed with this stage is between 9 to 12 years.

    Decompensated Cirrhosis

    This indicates that cirrhosis is at a fatal stage. In this phase, you'll soon start showing liver cirrhosis last-stage symptoms like jaundice, itchy skin, bleeding or bruising easily, variceal bleeding, hepatic encephalopathy, ascites, hepatorenal syndrome, etc. 

    Your doctor will be able to recognize this stage based on your symptoms and lab & imaging findings. The median survival period for patients diagnosed with this stage is 2-3 years.

    What Are The Complications/Risk Factors Of Cirrhosis?

    Liver cirrhosis has many types of complications since it grows and develops over multiple years. Since it takes a lot of time to grow into something fatal, these complications are the first signs patients notice that they might have this disease. Here are some of the most common complications of cirrhosis:

    Portal Hypertension

    This serious complication is the most common one. It increases the blood pressure of your large blood vessel responsible for carrying blood to your liver from the digestive organs (also called the portal vein). Cirrhosis creates a blockage in the blood that flows through your liver. It causes your intestines to enlarge, resulting in internal bleeding and excruciating pain.


    This complication can make your spleen overactive, cause your blood cells to destruct prematurely, and cause heavy confusion and difficulty thinking.


    Cirrhosis of the liver can significantly reduce the fighting power of your body against infections. Some infections, like bacterial peritonitis, can cause the tissues in your abdomen's inner line to deteriorate.

    Liver Cancer

    It was observed in a study that most of the people who had liver cancer already had cirrhosis.


    Since your liver is responsible for processing nutrients, amongst other things, cirrhosis can cause you to lose weight significantly and cause malnutrition.

    What are the Tests for Cirrhosis?

    The doctors perform a general physical test first to check out the signs and symptoms associated with cirrhosis. Post the physical examination, medical experts perform the following tests: 

    Blood Test

    The doctor will take some samples of your blood to test them and check for signs of liver damage. Here are some things the doctor will assess:

    • Level of albumin in your body (lower levels indicate liver damage)
    • Level of enzymes in your liver (high levels suggest inflammation)
    • Level of iron in your body (high levels indicate hemochromatosis)
    • Bilirubin level (high levels suggest liver damage)
    • White blood cell count (high count suggests liver infection)
    • Creatinine level (high levels indicate diseased kidney)

    The blood test results help the doctor undertake the liver cirrhosis diagnosis process successfully. It also helps them determine if there might be cirrhosis in your liver. If the doctor thinks you have cirrhosis, they will suggest liver tests to confirm its existence.

    Liver Test

    Experts perform a liver test to measure the levels of proteins and enzymes in your body. There are many types of liver profile test, such as:

    • Alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) Test - The Alanine transaminase test is a blood test used to evaluate liver function. ALT and AST help your body break down amino acids and proteins. High levels of ALT or AST in your body means that your liver might be leaking the enzymes due to liver damage.
    • Albumin Test - Lower levels of albumin in your blood indicate liver damage caused by cirrhosis.
    • Bilirubin Test - A bilirubin test is a blood test that measures the level of bilirubin in the blood. The liver removes bilirubin from your blood, a leftover yellow pigment from old blood cells when broken down. Liver cirrhosis makes the bilirubin levels rise in your body, which can cause jaundice.
    • creatinine serum test - The creatinine serum test is a blood test used to evaluate kidney function. Creatinine is a waste product produced by the muscles and is filtered out of your blood by your kidneys. High creatinine levels indicate damage in your kidney that is usually associated with late stages of liver cirrhosis.

    How Is Cirrhosis Of The Liver Diagnosed?

    Imaging Test

    Doctors recommend imaging tests to analyze the liver's shape, size, and texture. They also help doctors see the level of scarring in your liver tissues, the fat levels in your liver, and fluid accumulation in your abdomen. Imaging tests for cirrhosis can be a CT scan, MRI scan, or Abdominal Ultrasound Scan. 

    In this test, a special ultrasound test called transient elastography helps doctors measure the fat content in your liver. This can help them detect bile duct problems and internal bleeding in the esophagus or intestines.

    Liver Biopsy

    The doctor will take a sample of your liver tissue and examine it. This test can confirm cirrhosis by examining liver damage, its extent, and the existence of liver cancer.

    Treatment For Liver Cirrhosis

    Liver cirrhosis treatment depends on the extent of damage caused by it already. Depending on the level of damage, one or more of the following treatments are recommended by the doctor:

    Portal hypertension 

    This is a condition that is a result of chronic and/or late-stage liver cirrhosis. It includes the following:

    • Lowering blood pressure by prescribing nitrates or beta-blockers
    • Prescription of lactulose for absorbing excess toxins in the blood
    • Reducing blood pressure in the portal vein by redirecting the blood and controlling variceal bleeding. Performed by a process called transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt
    • Tiny elastic bands procedure or sclerotherapy for reducing bleeding in the varices
    • Paracentesis, which is a process that drains the excess accumulated fluids in your abdomen
    • Prescription of diuretic medication for reducing accumulated fluids in your legs

    Other liver cirrhosis cures/treatments include the prescription of protein supplements and antibiotics to reduce the recurrence of internal infections. Other medications include ursodiol or surgery for treating damaged bile ducts.

    In the case of liver cancer, experts recommend treatments such as chemotherapy ablation, immunotherapy, removal of damaged parts of the liver, and even complete removal of the liver with liver transplantation.

    How Can I Prevent Cirrhosis Of The Liver?

    For the successful prevention of liver cirrhosis, you can make some lifestyle changes if you haven't started already. These include:

    • Reducing alcohol consumption
    • Maintaining a low-fat and well-balanced diet
    • Reduce the use of excess salt in your food.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Have regular health checkups, especially if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high triglycerides, and cholesterol issues
    • Quit smoking and drugs.
    • Get a proper vaccination for hepatitis B, C, and D.

    Get Tested for Cirrhosis with HealthcareOnTime

    HealthcareOnTime helps people access several tests for checking their health conditions. We are a NABL/ISO-accredited diagnostic center and can offer reasonable prices for various pathology tests with certified doctors.

    With 24 x 7 bookings and exceptional support from our team, you can easily book your tests for cirrhosis and other conditions. Book a test with us today and clear any doubts about your health conditions.

    Tagged In: Liver Cirrhosis Causes, Liver Cirrhosis Symptoms, Liver Cirrhosis Treatment, Liver Cirrhosis Stages, Types of Liver Cirrhosis, Complications of Liver Cirrhosis

    FAQs on Liver Cirrhosis: All Your Queries Answered

    Is liver cirrhosis curable?

    You cannot cure Liver cirrhosis, but you can indeed manage its symptoms and complications and stop the condition from worsening.

    How long can a person live with liver cirrhosis?

    The average median survival for an individual suffering from liver cirrhosis is approximately 9 - 12 years. 

    What is the best diet for cirrhosis of the liver?

    Fruits and vegetables, cooked fish, egg and egg whites, unsalted nuts and seeds, oats, brown rice, low-fat milk, ginger, garlic, coconut water, and others are some food items you must include in your diet.

    How long does the liver take to recover from cirrhosis?

    Once you've stopped consuming alcohol, your healing begins, lasting from days to weeks. However, complete recovery can take months if you're at a severe stage.

    What stage of cirrhosis is irreversible?

    The advanced stages of liver cirrhosis are usually irreversible and might require you to undertake a liver transplant. You can reverse cirrhosis in the earlier stages if the underlying cause gets proper treatment. 

    What is the fastest way to cure cirrhosis of the liver?

    Getting a liver transplant is the best, and the fastest way to cure liver cirrhosis, especially when you're at an advanced stage and the liver has ceased to function.

    Can the liver regenerate after cirrhosis?

    The liver can regenerate if it's healthy enough and doesn't have severe scar tissue. In cases when liver cirrhosis is present, liver regeneration gets tricky.


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