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Cirrhosis

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Last updated December 13, 2021

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What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. Scar tissue forms because of an injury to the liver or long-term disease. In the U.S., heavy alcohol use and hepatitis C are the most common causes. Liver disease can be caused by other issues, such as viruses (hepatitis), fatty liver disease, medications, autoimmune disease, and inherited disorders.

Scar tissue cannot do what healthy liver tissue does—make protein, help fight infections, clean the blood, help digest food and store energy. People with cirrhosis can have bloating and their abdomens can stick out.

Treatment

If you have serious symptoms, such as blood in stool or vomit, go to the ER. People with liver disease should see a liver specialist, called a hepatologist, to treat the underlying causes of the disease.

Treatment for cirrhosis usually involves a dietary approach, medication to treat the underlying cause, and stopping any alcohol use. To reduce fluid in the abdomen, you may be prescribed diuretics (“water pills”). You may need a procedure that uses a needle to remove fluid from the abdomen. Reducing dietary salt intake also helps decrease stomach bloating.

A liver transplant may be necessary in serious cases of liver failure.

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