Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage. It prevents the liver working properly. It can eventually lead to liver failure, where your liver stops working, which can be fatal. But it usually takes years for cirrhosis to reach this stage. Treatment can help slow its progression.

Symptoms of cirrhosis

You may not have any symptoms during the early stages of cirrhosis. As your liver becomes more damaged, you may:

As the condition gets worse, further symptoms can include:

  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • vomiting blood
  • itchy skin
  • dark, tarry-looking poo
  • a tendency to bleed or bruise more easily
  • swollen legs (oedema) or tummy (ascites) from a build-up of fluid

See your GP if you think you may have cirrhosis.

Diagnosing cirrhosis

If your GP thinks you may have cirrhosis, they'll check your medical history and carry out a physical examination. This is to look for signs of long-term liver disease.

You may have tests to confirm the diagnosis. Tests include blood tests and scans.

Treating cirrhosis

There's currently no cure for cirrhosis. But it's possible to manage the symptoms and any complications, and slow its progression.

Treating the underlying cause, such as using anti-viral medication to treat a hepatitis C infection, can also stop cirrhosis getting worse.

You may be advised to cut down on or stop drinking alcohol, or lose weight if you're overweight.

If your liver is severely scarred, it can stop functioning. In this case, a liver transplant is the only treatment option.

Causes of cirrhosis

In Northern Ireland, common causes of cirrhosis include:

Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver's cells.

Alcohol-related cirrhosis usually develops after 10 or more years of heavy drinking.

Women who drink heavily are more likely to get liver damage than men, partly because of their different size and build.

Preventing cirrhosis

Limit alcohol

The best way of preventing alcohol-related cirrhosis is to drink within the recommended limits:

You should stop drinking alcohol immediately if you have alcohol-related cirrhosis. Alcohol speeds up the rate at which cirrhosis progresses, regardless of the cause.

Your GP can give you help and advice if you're finding it difficult to cut down the amount you drink.

Protect yourself from hepatitis

Hepatitis B and C are infections you can get by having unprotected sex or sharing needles to inject drugs.

Using a condom during sex and not injecting drugs will reduce your risk of getting hepatitis B and C.

A vaccine for hepatitis B is available, but there's currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Aim for a healthy weight

To reduce your risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis, try to maintain a healthy weight by having a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.