Learn more about the symptoms and side effects of cirrhosis. Only a small percentage of AIH patients develop cirrhosis and need a liver transplant.
One function of the liver is to clean and process the intestinal blood. Blood from the intestines (containing nutrients, medications, etc) goes through the liver for processing prior to returning to the heart. When patients develop cirrhosis, the pressure in this system can increase and put patients at risk for developing side effects of portal hypertension.
Other side effects of cirrhosis and the resulting portal hypertension include enlargement of the spleen, low platelets, fluid collection in the abdomen (ascites), leg swelling, enlargement of blood vessels in the esophagus (varices), and confusion related to the poor removal of digestive byproducts (hepatic encephalopathy). Symptoms of cirrhosis are typically treated separately from AIH and require additional medications and possibly other procedures.
Patients with cirrhosis don’t necessarily have poor liver function and may live with cirrhosis for many years before showing signs that the liver is not working optimally. The most important measure of true liver function is based on some lab results that reflect how the liver is working, such as: total bilirubin, creatinine, PT/INR, and albumin. These labs are used by hepatologists to help determine if you may be a candidate for liver transplant.