A-Z of health
You can search for full details of a range of treatments or conditions simply by selecting a letter.
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver as a result of continuous, long-term liver damage. Scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver and prevents the liver from working properly.
The damage caused by cirrhosis is permanent and can't be reversed. Cirrhosis progresses slowly, over many years, gradually causing your liver to stop functioning. This is called liver failure.
Every year, around 1,000 people in the UK die from cirrhosis. Around 700 people need to have a liver transplant to survive. The number of people with cirrhosis is increasing.
The signs of cirrhosis
There are very few symptoms in the early stages of cirrhosis. However, as your liver loses its ability to function properly, you're likely to experience a loss of appetite, nausea and very itchy skin.
Read more about the symptoms of cirrhosis.
When to see your GP
As cirrhosis doesn't have many obvious symptoms during the early stages, it's often picked up during tests for an unrelated illness.
See your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:
- fever and shivering
- shortness of breath
- vomiting blood
- very dark or black, tarry stools (faeces)
- periods of confusion or drowsiness
Read more about how cirrhosis is diagnosed.
How does cirrhosis happen?
Read more about the causes of cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis can't be cured. But it's possible to manage the symptoms and any complications witt treatment, and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Treating underlying diseases that may be the cause, such as hepatitis, will also stop the cirrhosis from getting worse.
You may be advised to cut down or stop drinking alcohol or to lose weight if you're overweight. A wide range of alcohol support services are available.
In its worst stage, the scarring caused by cirrhosis can make your liver stop functioning. In this case, a liver transplant is the only treatment option.
Read more about treating cirrhosis.
Not exceeding recommended limits for alcohol consumption is the best way of preventing alcohol-related cirrhosis.
Men should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day. Women should drink no more than 2-3 units a day.
Hepatitis B and C are infectious conditions that can be caught through having unprotected sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs. Using a condom during sex and avoiding injecting drugs will reduce your risk of developing hepatitis B and C.
You can be vaccinated against hepatitis B but there is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.
People who were born in areas of the world where hepatitis B and C are widespread, such as parts of South Asia and Africa, need to be screened for hepatitis as early treatment can help prevent the onset of cirrhosis.
Read more about preventing cirrhosis.