Liver Cirrhosis | Liver Disease

Liver Disease

Liver Cirrhosis

Our team of liver specialists offers compassionate care. We have advanced expertise for managing and treating liver cirrhosis.

Medically reviewed by Eric Chak, M.D. on Aug. 21, 2023.

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What Is Liver Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis of the liver develops when liver damage produces scar tissue. Cirrhosis develops as scar tissue replaces the healthy tissue in your liver.

UC Davis Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology includes a hepatology (liver care) team dedicated to giving you the most comprehensive care for liver cirrhosis. We are committed to continuing liver disease research so we can provide the most advanced treatments.

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Liver Cirrhosis Symptoms

Your symptoms depend on how advanced your liver damage is. In the early stage of liver cirrhosis, you may not have any symptoms.

Common Early Symptoms

Early signs of liver cirrhosis include:

  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Weight loss

Common Advanced Symptoms

As liver cirrhosis progresses, the symptoms become more severe. These include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Discolored or dark urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Swelling in your abdomen, ankles, feet and legs

Causes of Liver Cirrhosis

The liver damage that leads to cirrhosis usually happens slowly over time. These are the most common causes of liver cirrhosis:

Alcohol Use

Long-term alcohol use can cause liver damage and cirrhosis.

Bile Duct Diseases

Bile duct conditions such as primary biliary cholangitis or primary sclerosing cholangitis may cause liver cirrhosis.

Steatosis (Fatty) Liver Disease

Diabetes and obesity may cause storage of extra fat in your liver, which can lead to cirrhosis.

Viral Hepatitis Infection

Chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection causes inflammation in your liver that may lead to cirrhosis.

Inherited Diseases

Certain inherited conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease can cause liver damage and cirrhosis.

Other Diseases

Other diseases may cause liver cirrhosis. For example, autoimmune hepatitis can scar your liver through inflammation. Chronic heart failure can cause fluid build-up in your liver, leading to liver damage.


Diagnosing Liver Cirrhosis

Your provider will do a physical exam and ask about your health history, including alcohol use. At UC Davis Health, we use the most advanced diagnostic techniques for liver and bile duct diseases.

You may need one or more tests, including:

  • Blood tests: There are several blood tests that may indicate your liver isn’t working well. You also may have blood tests for diseases known to cause liver damage.
  • Imaging tests: Scans such as CT scan, MRI and ultrasound show the condition, fat content, shape and size of your liver.
  • Endoscopy: Your provider inserts a long tube (endoscope) with a camera or tools on the end into your body. We use state-of-the-art, minimally invasive endoscopy techniques to diagnose liver cirrhosis and treat bile duct conditions.
  • Biopsy: A surgeon removes a small tissue sample from your liver. Then a pathologist looks at the sample under a microscope to check for signs of liver damage.

Liver Cirrhosis Treatment at UC Davis Health

Our hepatology team uses a full range of approaches for slowing liver damage. Our goal is to give you the best care and support through every stage of your health.

Your treatment depends on what caused your liver damage. There is no cure for liver cirrhosis, so treatment focuses on preserving as much liver function as possible and managing symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes and Weight Loss

Your treatment may include lifestyle changes such as following a healthy diet and getting more activity. Weight loss is typically part of fatty liver disease management.


If a disease caused liver cirrhosis, you will take medications to treat the disease. For example, autoimmune hepatitis treatment includes immunosuppressant medications. Viral hepatitis treatment includes antiviral medications.

Stopping Alcohol Use

If alcohol use led to cirrhosis, stopping alcohol is an important part of treatment. If you need help quitting, the compassionate addiction specialists at our substance use disorder treatment clinic are here for you.


A liver transplant may be the only effective treatment option if cirrhosis is advanced. Our liver transplant team is here to support you before, during and after transplant.


Preventing Liver Cirrhosis

Avoiding alcohol use, keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range and staying at a healthy weight may help prevent liver cirrhosis.

In the U.S.

1 in 400Adults have liver cirrhosis

Source: National Institutes of Health: Definition and Facts for Cirrhosis

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