Viral Hepatitis

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Fibrosis and Cirrhosis

for Veterans and the Public

Fibrosis and cirrhosis

Anything that damages the liver over many years can lead the liver to form scar tissue. Fibrosis is the first stage of liver scarring.

When scar tissue builds up and takes over most of the liver, this is a more serious problem called cirrhosis (pronounced "sir-o-sis"). Scar tissue cannot perform any of the jobs of normal liver cells, and this causes a person with cirrhosis to slowly become ill.

Not everyone with hepatitis or a chronic liver problem will develop cirrhosis. Cirrhosis does not happen overnight. In the early years of having cirrhosis, many people will have no obvious signs or be ill and many may not even be aware they have cirrhosis at all.

Cirrhosis can be caused by anything that damages the liver after years of irritation, not just alcohol. However, heavy alcohol use and having the hepatitis C virus for a long time (such as 20 to 30 years) increases your risk.

Liver changes from healthy to cirrhotic.

Scroll over image to see an animation of the liver changing from a healthy liver to a liver with cirrhosis.

Over time, cirrhosis can lead a person to become ill. Symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty thinking clearly, fluid in the abdomen, bleeding in the intestines, and poor blood clotting. Anyone who has cirrhosis, with or without symptoms, needs very close medical attention.