What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cirrhosis?

Because cirrhosis and liver disease in general, is silent, few if any symptoms are experienced until the later stages of the disease. Symptoms may be vague for some people or more severe in others, depending on the stage of the disease. Signs and symptoms that occur may be:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Edema (swelling in the legs)
  • Bruising easily
  • Bleeding easily
  • Ascites – Abdominal pain and bloating (caused by fluid retention)
  • Itching
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on the skin
  • Impotence and loss of interest in sex
  • Pale or clay colored stools

It is important to know that a person with cirrhosis is at increased risk of developing serious complications such as:

  • Bleeding problems – some people with cirrhosis have difficulty clotting which causes excessive bleeding
  • Kidney problems – liver disease places a great deal of stress on the kidneys causing fluid retention and in advanced liver disease, possibly a progressive deterioration of kidney function
  • Osteoporosis (bone loss) – decreased bone mass and decreased bone density causing bone fractures
  • Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) and (hepatoma) – risk varies with the cause of liver disease
  • Enlarged spleen (Splenomegaly)
  • Esophageal and gastric varices – essentially, varicose veins in the esophagus and stomach, one of the most serious complications because they can rupture and bleed. This internal bleeding can be life-threatening
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the eyes and skin from bilirubin retention
  • Hepatic encephalopathy – high levels of toxins in the blood causing mental changes exhibited as mild confusion or in extreme cases – coma
  • Low or high blood sugars
  • Cachexia (wasting) – a wasting syndrome that causes weakness and a loss of weight, fat, and muscle
  • Malnutrition – as a result of cachexia
  • Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis – infected fluid in the abdomen
  • More frequent infections – due to the body’s inability to fight infection
  • Gallstones – hardened bile resulting in stones when bile is prevented from flowing freely to and from the gallbladder

American Liver Foundation “Cirrhosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Parasites – Schistosomiasis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

Mayo Clinic “Cirrhosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

Mayo Clinic “Toxic Hepatitis” Retrieved March 31, 2011 “Cachexia” Retrieved March 31, 2011 “What is Congestive Heart Failure?” Retrieved March 31, 2011

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse “What is Cirrhosis?” Retrieved March 31, 2011

PubMed Health “Cirrhosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011 “Liver Disease in Cystic Fibrosis” Retrieved March 31, 2011

US Department of Health and Human Services – National Institutes of Health “What is Cystic Fibrosis?” Retrieved March 31, 2011

US National Library of Medicine NIH National Institutes of Health “Hepatic Vein Obstruction (Budd-Chiari)” Retrieved March 31, 2011

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