Digestive System Home > Cirrhosis Complications

There are a number of complications that can occur with cirrhosis. For example, people with cirrhosis can develop diabetes, since cirrhosis causes resistance to insulin. Also, some people who have cirrhosis develop hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer that has a high mortality rate. Cirrhosis can cause complications in a number of other organs. A few of these cirrhosis complications include impotence, kidney problems, and osteoporosis.

An Overview of Cirrhosis Complications

Loss of liver function affects the body in many ways. Following are some common problems, or complications, caused by cirrhosis.
  • Edema and ascites
  • Bruising and bleeding
  • Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
  • Jaundice
  • Itching
  • Gallstones
  • Toxins in the blood or brain
  • Sensitivity to medication
  • High blood pressure within the liver (portal hypertension)
  • Bleeding in the stomach and esophagus (known as varices)
  • Diabetes
  • Liver cancer
  • Problems in other organs.

Cirrhosis Complications Explained

Edema and Ascites
When the liver loses its ability to make the protein albumin, bloating or swelling may occur as fluid builds up in the abdomen or legs. Fluid build-up in the abdomen is called ascites. When fluid builds up in the legs, it is called edema.
Bruising and Bleeding
When the liver slows or stops production of the proteins needed for blood clotting, a person will bruise or bleed easily. For example, a person may experience frequent nosebleeds. The palms of the hands may be reddish and blotchy with palmar erythema.
Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis
People with ascites and cirrhosis may develop acute bacterial peritonitis. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis is an infection of the ascetic fluid that builds up within the abdomen. It occurs for no apparent reason and without warning, which is why it is called spontaneous.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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