Cirrhosis is liver scarring that can result from inflammation caused by alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or other conditions. As scar tissue replaces healthy tissue, blood flow through the liver becomes partially blocked. Scarring also inhibits the liver from processing nutrients, removing bacteria and toxins from the blood and controlling infections. As liver function deteriorates, complications can include:
• Fluid collection in the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites)
• Easy bruising or bleeding
• Eye or skin yellowing (jaundice) 

Experts estimate 30 percent of cirrhosis patients will develop liver cancer during a 20-year time period, so it is important to regularly screen cirrhosis patients for liver cancer. Besides drug and alcohol abuse, other causes of cirrhosis include:
• Poisons
• Infections
• Heart disease
• Viral hepatitis
• Genetic diseases
• A patient’s own immune system (autoimmune cirrhosis)

Symptoms of Cirrhosis 
If scarring is interfering with liver function, you may experience:
• Foot and abdominal swelling
• Confusion (hepatic encephalopathy) or memory loss, caused by toxin buildup in the brain
• Nighttime sleep difficulty and increased daytime sleeping
• Vomiting blood
• Passing bloody, purple or black bowel movements
• Yellow eyes or skin
• Hand tremors or “flapping” when hands are extended
• Muscle loss

Diagnosing Cirrhosis 
Your physician will ask about your medical history, symptoms and potential cirrhosis risk factors, especially alcohol use. Your physician also will perform a physical exam to check for signs of cirrhosis such as feeling if your liver is hard and enlarged. Blood tests will provide information to aid in your condition’s assessment, and your physician will look at your liver using Houston Methodist’s state-of-the-art imaging technologies. A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis, but may not be necessary.

Complications of Cirrhosis 
Cirrhosis complications may include:
• Difficulty fighting infections
• Malnutrition because of decreased liver function
• Confusion and concentration difficulty
• Internal bleeding caused by increased pressure in the main vein that brings blood to the liver (portal hypertension)
• Abdominal and leg swelling
• Increased liver cancer risk

Treating Cirrhosis
Houston Methodist physicians will discuss your specific conditions and determine your individualized treatment course. Cirrhosis develops in stages, so, if found early, it can be treated and its progression stopped, depending on its cause. However, complications may lead to a liver transplant.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in treating cirrhosis at the following convenient locations..