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Cirrhosis and Complications

Cirrhosis is a condition in which scarring replaces the liver's healthy tissue over time.

It can occur in people who have liver disease that causes inflammation or swelling. A generally unhealthy lifestyle, like a poor diet or heavy consumption of alcohol, can also lead to cirrhosis.

Doctors at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases are experts in treating cirrhosis and the complications it causes.

What are the Complications Caused by Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis complications affect many different parts of the body.

People with cirrhosis might suffer from several problems, including:

  • Ascites: Fluid between the stomach lining and its organs.
  • Hepatic hydrothorax: Fluid build-up in the space between the tissues that lines the chest and the lungs.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy: Toxins that travel to the brain and impact its function.
  • Varices in the esophagus: Enlarged veins that form in the tube that connects the throat to your stomach. As these veins get thinner, they can burst and bleed.
  • Hyponatremia: A dangerous decrease in sodium in your blood.
  • Hepatorenal syndrome: A decline in normal kidney function.
  • Blood clotting issues: A decrease in certain blood clotting proteins that help blood to clot. This can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Muscle loss: Shrinking or wasting away of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia.

Treatments for Cirrhosis Complications

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might suggest different types of treatment.

Common cirrhosis treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt in your diet, stopping alcoholic beverages, improving nutrition, and exercising to maintain muscle mass.
  • Medication — such as diuretics, or water pills — to reduce fluids in your body.
  • Surgery to help stop bleeding or remove fluid.
  • Your doctor will work with you to design the best plan to treat complications of cirrhosis.

If the above treatments don't work and your cirrhosis gets worse, your doctor may refer you for a liver transplant.

Why Choose UPMC for Cirrhosis Care?

Our experts at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases:

  • Treat the full range of cirrhosis complications.
  • Use the latest liver disease research and therapies to help you manage your cirrhosis symptoms.
  • Work with the renowned liver transplant experts at the UPMC Liver Transplant Program, in cases where cirrhosis becomes too severe.

Contact the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases

To schedule an appointment with a hepatologist at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases, call 412-647-1170.