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It’s important that people with cirrhosis eat a low fat, high protein balanced diet.

It’s important that people with cirrhosis eat a low fat, high protein balanced diet.
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Cirrhosis of the liver

2-minute read

The liver is a vital organ that performs many important functions. Cirrhosis is permanent scarring of the liver caused by a range of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and alcohol abuse. Although incurable, early diagnosis and treatment can stop or delay its progress, minimise damage and reduce complications.

What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis develops when the liver is permanently damaged and scar tissue replaces healthy tissue.

Cirrhosis develops over many years, eventually preventing the liver from functioning properly.

If cirrhosis becomes so serious it causes the liver to fail, it can be life-threatening.

What causes cirrhosis?

While anything that damages the liver can cause cirrhosis, the most common causes are:

Other causes include autoimmune liver disease and inherited liver diseases (such as haemochromatosis, a condition where iron builds up in the liver).

Cirrhosis symptoms

Symptoms come on gradually as the liver loses its ability to work properly. They include:

  • tiredness and weakness
  • bruising and bleeding easily
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of skin and whites of eyes (jaundice)
  • fluid buildup in abdomen (ascites)
  • appetite loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • swelling in legs (oedema)
  • weight loss
  • very black, dark or tarry stool (poo)
  • confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
  • fever and shivering
  • red palms of the hands
  • spider-like blood vessels on skin
  • breast enlargement in men.

Cirrhosis treatment

Cirrhosis has no cure. However, it is possible to manage the symptoms and any complications, and slow its progression.

Your doctor may recommend:

Very advanced cirrhosis causes the liver to fail. In this case, a liver transplant is the only treatment option.

If you have liver cirrhosis, it’s important to avoid drinking alcohol to prevent further liver damage. Cut down on salt and make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as lean protein. Make sure you avoid infections by washing your hands regularly and getting up to date on your vaccinations, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you use over the counter medications.

To help prevent cirrhosis, limit alcohol consumption to no more than the daily recommend amounts, and immunise against hepatitis B infection. Avoid high-risk sexual behaviour (unprotected sex) and unsafe needle practices (i.e. no sharing) to prevent hepatitis infection.

Last reviewed: June 2017

Need more information?

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Primary Biliary Cirrhosis | myVMC

Primary biliary cirrhosis is liver shrinkage due to progressive inflammatory destruction of the bile ducts.

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What is cirrhosis? Liver cirrhosis and hep C - Hepatitis NSW

What is cirrhosis? Cirrhosis is scar tissue in the liver (caused by inflammation of liver cells). The scar tissue reduces blood flow through the liver.

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Liver Cirrhosis | myVMC

Information on the symptoms, treatment and diagnosis of Cirrhosis of the liver written by professional medical specialists.

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Primary biliary cirrhosis

Primary biliary cirrhosis is an autoimmune condition characterised by inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts within the liver.

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Liver cirrhosis - myDr.com.au

Cirrhosis of the liver, which may be caused by drinking too much alcohol, is a severe and irreversible liver disease, where healthy tissue is progressively replaced by scar tissue (fibrosis).

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Fatty liver disease (NAFLD) information video | myVMC

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an accumulation of fatty deposits in the liver, causing cirrhosis. It is diagnosed by liver function tests.

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Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis | myVMC

Primary sclerosing cholangitis refers to inflammation and fibrosis of the bile duct which leads to liver cirrhosis.

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Amizide | myVMC

Amizide is used to treat hypertension, heart failure and liver cirrhosis. It contains amiloride hydrochloride and hydrochlorothiazide.

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Hereditary Haemochromatosis (HH) | myVMC

Hereditary haemochromatosis is a disorder of iron metabolism which leads to deposition of iron in organs, followed by cirrhosis and diabetes mellitus.

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Reye's Syndrome | myVMC

Reyes syndrome is a condition in which there is brain and liver damage of an unknown cause

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