Some causes of cirrhosis, such as hepatitis B, can be prevented by vaccination. Treatment partly depends on the underlying cause, but the goal is often to prevent worsening and complications. Avoiding alcohol is recommended in all cases of cirrhosis. Hepatitis B and C may be treatable with antiviral medications. Autoimmune hepatitis may be treated with steroid medications.Ursodiol may be useful if the disease is due to blockage of the bile ducts. Other medications may be useful for complications such as abdominal or leg swelling, hepatic encephalopathy, and dilated esophageal veins. In severe cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be an option.
Cirrhosis affected about 2.8 million people and resulted in 1.3 million deaths in 2015. Of these deaths, alcohol caused 348,000, hepatitis C caused 326,000, and hepatitis B caused 371,000. In the United States, more men die of cirrhosis than women. The first known description of the condition is by Hippocrates in the 5th century BCE. The term cirrhosis was invented in 1819, from a Greek word for the yellowish color of a diseased liver.
Cirrhosis has many possible manifestations. These signs and symptoms may be either a direct result of the failure of liver cells, or secondary to the resultant portal hypertension. There are also some manifestations whose causes are nonspecific but which may occur in cirrhosis. Likewise, the absence of any signs does not rule out the possibility of cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver is slow and gradual in its development. It is usually well advanced before its symptoms are noticeable enough to cause alarm. Weakness and loss of weight may be early symptoms.
The following features are as a direct consequence of liver cells not functioning.
Spider angiomata or spider nevi are vascular lesions consisting of a central arteriole surrounded by many smaller vessels (hence the name "spider") and occur due to an increase in estradiol. One study found that spider angiomata occur in about 1/3 of cases.
Gynecomastia, or increase in breast gland size in men that is not cancerous, is caused by increased estradiol and can occur in up to 2/3 of patients. This is different from increase in breast fat in overweight people.
Hypogonadism, a decrease in male sex hormones may manifest as impotence, infertility, loss of sexual drive, and testicular atrophy, and can result from primary gonadal injury or suppression of hypothalamic/pituitary function. Hypogonadism is associated with cirrhosis due to alcoholism or hemochromatosis.
Liver size can be enlarged, normal, or shrunken in people with cirrhosis.
Ascites, accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity (space in the abdomen), gives rise to "flank dullness". This may be visible as an increase in abdominal girth.
Jaundice, or icterus is yellow discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes, (with the white of the eye being especially noticeable) due to increased bilirubin (at least 2–3 mg/dl or 30 µmol/l). The urine may also appear dark.
Liver cirrhosis increases resistance to blood flow and leads to higher pressure in the portal venous system, resulting in portal hypertension. Effects of portal hypertension include:
Splenomegaly (increase in size of the spleen) is found in 35% to 50% of patients.
Esophageal varices result from collateral portal blood flow through vessels in the stomach and esophagus (a process called portacaval anastomosis). When these blood vessels become enlarged, they are called varices and are more likely to rupture. Variceal rupture often leads to severe bleeding, which can prove fatal.
Caput medusa are dilated periumbilical collateral veins due to portal hypertension. Blood from the portal venous system may be shunted through the periumbilical veins and ultimately to the abdominal wall veins, manifesting as a pattern that may resemble the head of Medusa.
Cruveilhier-Baumgarten bruit is a venous hum heard in the epigastric region (on examination by stethoscope) due to collateral connections forming between the portal system and the periumbilical veins as a result of portal hypertension.
There are some changes seen in cirrhosis whose causes are not clearly known. They may also be a sign of other non-liver related causes.
Dupuytren's contracture. Thickening and shortening of palmar fascia (tissue on the palm of the hands) that leads to flexion deformities of the fingers. Caused by fibroblastic proliferation (increased growth) and disorderly collagen deposition. It is relatively common (33% of patients).
Hepatic encephalopathy – the liver does not clear ammonia and related nitrogenous substances from the blood, which are carried to the brain, affecting cerebral functioning: neglect of personal appearance, unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep habits or psychosis may result. This can be seen on exam by asterixis, which is bilateral asynchronous flapping of outstretched, dorsiflexed hands seen in patients with hepatic encephalopathy.
Sensitivity to medication caused by decreased metabolism of the active compounds.