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Dr. Mansfield
Cirrhosis of the liver is scarring caused by chronic, or long-term, liver injury or disease. It is a leading cause of illness and death in the United States. Dr. Jerman, can you tell us more about cirrhosis?

Dr. Jerman
Sure, Dr. Mansfield. The reason cirrhosis causes such serious complications is that scarring makes it very difficult for the liver to function normally. The liver has several jobs that are essential to life, including:

  • Extracting nutrients absorbed by the digestive system from the blood and processing them for later use
  • Secreting bile, which helps the digestive system absorb fat and certain vitamins
  • Detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs, and
  • Producing blood proteins that enable normal clotting

As scar tissue replaces healthy tissue, liver function worsens, and a number of symptoms may develop. These can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen, or ascites
  • Edema, or swelling due to fluid buildup in the feet, ankles, or legs
  • Spider-like blood vessels on the skin, called spider angiomas
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin, and
  • Altered mental status, including coma