Skip to main content




is long-term scarring of the liver. The liver makes enzymes and bile that help digest food and gives your body energy. It also removes harmful material from your body, such as alcohol and other chemicals. Cirrhosis is caused by repeated damage to your liver over time. Scar tissue starts to replace healthy liver tissue. The scar tissue prevents the liver from working properly.

Common signs and symptoms of cirrhosis:

You may not have any signs or symptoms until your liver damage is severe. You may have any of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Swelling of your feet, legs, or abdomen
  • Nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss
  • Itching
  • Jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes)
  • Black bowel movements or dark urine

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have pain during a bowel movement and it is black or contains blood.
  • You have a fast heart rate and fast breathing.
  • You are dizzy or confused.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • Your vomit looks like it has coffee grinds or blood in it.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have red or itchy skin.
  • You are in pain and feel weak.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include any of the following:

  • Medicines may be used to treat high blood pressure in the portal vein (the vein that goes to your liver). You may also need medicine to decrease extra fluid that collects in an area such as your legs or abdomen. Medicines may be used to decrease itching, or to treat a bacterial or viral infection.
  • Surgery may be used to create a channel inside your liver to increase blood flow. This will help decrease swelling in your abdomen and lower blood pressure in the portal vein. Your risk for bleeding in your esophagus and stomach will also be decreased. You may need a liver transplant if your liver fails.

Do not drink alcohol:

Alcohol will cause more damage to your liver.

Manage cirrhosis:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause blood vessel and lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Reach or maintain a healthy weight. You may develop fatty liver disease if you are overweight. Ask your healthcare provider for a healthy weight for you. He can help you create a safe weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Limit sodium (salt). You may need to decrease the amount of sodium you eat if you have swelling caused by fluid buildup. Sodium is found in table salt and salty foods such as canned foods, frozen foods, and potato chips.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk. Liquids can help your liver work better.
  • Ask about vaccines. You may have a hard time fighting infection because of cirrhosis. Vaccines help protect you against viruses that can cause diseases such as the flu or hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is caused by a virus that leads to inflammation of the liver. You may need a hepatitis A or B vaccine. You may also need a pneumonia vaccine. Always get a flu vaccine each year as soon as it becomes available.
  • Ask about medicines. Some medicines can harm your liver. Acetaminophen is an example. Talk to your healthcare provider about all your medicines. Do not take any over-the-counter medicine or herbal supplements until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Cirrhosis (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.