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FAQ: If you have cirrhosis, won't you look yellow?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If you have cirrhosis, won't you look yellow?

Cirrhosis is advanced scarring (fibrosis) in the liver. Many people who develop cirrhosis show no signs at all--they look exactly the same as they did before. For some people with cirrhosis, the scarring in the liver causes a buildup of bile and increases the level of bilirubin (a brownish-yellow substance found in bile) in the bloodstream. High bilirubin levels can make the skin appear yellow. So, although the skin of some people with cirrhosis may turn yellow, it does not happen to most people.

It is also important to know that a yellowish skin tone may be caused by cirrhosis, but it also could be caused by a different illness such as pancreatic cancer or colon cancer that has spread to the liver.