The symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver vary, depending on how far the disease has progressed, but may include fatigue, jaundice, bruising, and even bleeding stomach ulcers. Cirrhosis of the liver is a progressive medical condition where the healthy tissue of the liver is transformed into scar tissue, causing the liver to function improperly. Blood is unable to flow to the liver because of the scar tissue, thereby preventing hormones, nutrients, drugs, and toxins from being processed.
At the onset of the disease, many people do not recognize the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver. Eventually, they may simply feel tired or weak. Sometimes people will experience nausea or a lack of appetite during the early stages as well. Unfortunately, these vague signs can easily be overlooked or misdiagnosed.
As the disease worsens, symptoms usually become more severe. For example, jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes and skin, may occur because the liver cannot function properly to remove bilirubin from the bloodstream. Other people may notice that their nails may appear more club-like or may be white in color, instead of pink. Some people may experience fluid retention in the abdomen or legs, since the damaged liver cannot remove excess fluid from the body. They may also have a fever, blood in their stool, and orange or brown colored urine.
Other common symptoms of cirrhosis include frequent bruising and nosebleeds. These symptoms occur because the liver is responsible for making clotting proteins. When the liver is damaged through cirrhosis, it is unable to make clotting proteins. Without these proteins, blood cannot properly clot and symptoms such as bruising and nosebleeds are common.
If the disease is left untreated, the symptoms may become very serious. For example, untreated individuals may begin to vomit blood. This may be the result of stomach ulcers or from varicose veins in the esophagus that are leaking blood. If left untreated for long periods of time, the individual may suffer from hepatic encephalopathy. With hepatic encephalopathy, toxins which are usually removed by a healthy liver, travel to the brain where they may cause the brain to malfunction and may lead to a coma.
Once the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver are recognized, a medical doctor will likely make the final diagnosis. He may do this through a physical examination of the liver and blood tests to determine if the liver is not functioning properly. An ultrasound or computerized tomography scan (CT scan) may be recommended as well. Once diagnosed, many people begin to take medication, make lifestyle changes, or even receive a liver transplant to treat the disease.