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Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease

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What are the symptoms of cirrhosis?

for Veterans and the Public

What are the symptoms of cirrhosis? - Cirrhosis for Patients

At first, you may have no symptoms at all (this is called compensated cirrhosis). In fact, a person may live many years with cirrhosis without being aware that their liver is scarred. This is because the pressure in the portal vein is not yet too high and there are still enough healthy liver cells to keep up with the body’s needs.

But if nothing is done to remove the cause of cirrhosis (if you continue to drink or your hepatitis is not treated, or you don’t lose enough weight, for example), the pressure in the portal vein gets higher and the few remaining liver cells get overwhelmed. Then you may notice symptoms like low energy, poor appetite, weight loss, or loss of muscle mass. You can also develop the following serious problems (this is called decompensated cirrhosis): (1) internal bleeding from large blood vessels in the esophagus, called bleeding varices; (2) a buildup of fluid in the belly, called ascites (pronounced “a-sigh-tees”); (3) confusion from the buildup of toxins in the blood, called encephalopathy (pronounced “en-sef-a-lop-a-thee”); or (4) yellowing of the eyes and skin, called jaundice.

As mentioned earlier, another serious complication of cirrhosis is liver cancer, which may occur in the compensated or decompensated stage. There may be no signs of liver cancer until the cancer has grown very large and causes pain.