10 Common Complications of Cirrhosis

Bruising Is One of the Complications of Cirrhosis

liver cirrhosis
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Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring that occurs in response to liver damage. Many health conditions can cause this health condition, including:

  • complications from alcoholism
  • hepatitis
  • other liver diseases and conditions

The damage done is not reversible, but if you receive an early diagnosis, treatment can limit further damage. Unfortunately, you may have no noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Left untreated, your liver may not functions as it should, which is potentially fatal.


Loss of liver function affects the body in many ways. Following are common problems, or complications, caused by cirrhosis.

Bruising and Bleeding

Complications of cirrhosis cause the liver to slow down or stop production of the proteins needed for blood clotting. This what makes you bruise or bleed easily.

Fluid Retention

Fluid retention is common in cirrhosis patients. Portal hypertension, a complication of cirrhosis, can cause fluid to accumulate in your legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites). Edema and ascites may also be a result when the liver loses its ability to make the protein albumin.


Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when the diseased liver does not absorb enough bilirubin.


The liver produces bile to aid in the digestion of fats. Bile products deposited in the skin may cause intense itching.


If cirrhosis prevents bile from reaching the gallbladder, a person may develop gallstones.

Toxins in the Blood or Brain

A damaged liver cannot remove toxins from the blood, causing them to accumulate in the blood and eventually the brain. There, toxins can dull mental functioning and cause:

  • personality changes
  • coma
  • death

Signs of the buildup of toxins in the brain include:

  • neglect of personal appearance
  • unresponsiveness
  • forgetfulness
  • trouble concentrating
  • changes in sleep habits

Sensitivity to Medication

Cirrhosis slows the liver's ability to filter medications from the blood. Because the liver does not remove drugs from the blood at the usual rate, they act longer than expected and build up in the body. This causes you to be more sensitive to medications and their side effects.

Portal Hypertension

Normally, the portal vein carries blood from the intestines and spleen to the liver. But cirrhosis slows the normal flow of blood through the portal vein, which increases the pressure inside it. This condition is called portal hypertension.


When blood flow through the portal vein slows, blood from the intestines and spleen backs up into blood vessels in the stomach and esophagus. These blood vessels may become enlarged because they are not meant to carry this much blood.

The enlarged blood vessels, called varices, have thin walls and carry high pressure, and thus are more likely to burst. If they do burst, the result is a serious bleeding problem in the upper stomach or esophagus that requires immediate medical attention.

Problems in Other Organs

Cirrhosis can cause immune system dysfunction, leading to infection. Fluid in the abdomen may become infected with bacteria normally present in the intestines, and cirrhosis can also lead to kidney dysfunction and failure.

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