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Liver Cirrhosis involves damage to the liver so that it becomes scarred, fibrotic and fails to function properly. It is a chronic liver disease that is usually the result of excess alcohol abuse and can be fatal.

The causes of liver cirrhosis include a chronic hepatitis C infection, which is a bloodborne illness contracted from exposure to bodily fluids that are infected with hepatitis C or by chronic alcoholic liver disease (alcohol abuse). More rare causes of liver cirrhosis include an autoimmune inflammation of the liver, hepatitis B, primary biliary cirrhosis (lack of drainage from the liver to the intestines), certain medications, Wilson's disease (a hereditary disorder), other metabolic disorders and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The symptoms of alcoholic liver disease can be minor or even none. If there are symptoms, there is usually the gradual onset of indigestion of the abdomen or pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. There can be mental confusion or impotence, breast development or a lack of sexual interest. Nausea and vomiting are possible and there can be bleeding disorders from a lack of ability of the liver to make clotting factors. This can manifest itself as bruising or bleeding from the nose or gums. Stools are pale, often the colour of clay and there are spider veins and small spidery vessels in the skin, especially on the face. There can be swelling of the legs and abdomen. Swelling of the abdomen is called ascites. There can be vomiting of blood or blood in the stools along with weakness, weight loss and a yellow colouration to the skin, mucus membranes in the eyes, a condition called jaundice.

Doctors can diagnose cirrhosis of the liver during a physical examination. There can be a protuberant belly with ascites in the abdomen. There can be an enlarged spleen and a liver that is either enlarged or shrunken from scar tissue. Breast tissue is present due to oestrogen in the body. The palms of the hands are red and there are spider veins on the skin. The fingers can be small and contracted and the men's testicles are shrunken. There can be dilated veins on the abdominal wall and obvious jaundice of the eyes and/or the skin.

Blood tests can be done to show a low blood count (anaemia), clotting abnormalities, elevated liver function tests (which can normalize in end-stage disease) and low serum protein levels (albumin level). Tests can be done to evaluate the size and shape of the liver, including a CT scan or MRI scan of the abdomen. An ultrasound of the liver may show the scar tissue and shrunken or enlarged liver. The best test is a needle biopsy of the liver, which will show proof of cirrhosis of the liver. A needle biopsy is a good test but carries the risk of bleeding because of the bleeding abnormalities found in cirrhosis.

A complication of liver cirrhosis is cancer of the liver. Those with cirrhosis will be checked using a scan of the liver as well as serum alpha fetoprotein levels in the bloodstream. A serum alpha fetoprotein level is elevated in situations of liver cancer. People with cirrhosis are checked every six months for the presence or absence of liver cancer.

The treatment of liver cirrhosis includes not drinking alcohol in any form. Salt must be limited from the diet and you must eat a completely nutritious diet. You need vaccinations against pneumococcal pneumonia, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Be careful of the medications you take because some medications require a healthy liver in order to be taken.

If you have oesophageal varices (swollen veins in the oesophagus) from liver cirrhosis, they need to be treated by means of banding or sclerosis so there are no episodes of bleeding from the varices. You need vitamin K to improve bleeding disorders and you need blood clotting factors if your body does not make them any more. You also need lactulose and antibiotics if you have hepatic encephalopathy (confusion or coma in cirrhosis. If you get an infection, you need an antibiotic to fight off the infection. Sometimes you need a shunt in the abdomen that shunts fluid and blood past the liver that cannot push the blood through itself due to cirrhosis. Some people might need a liver transplant if they qualify for one.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Cirrhosis solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Cirrhosis solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here