Decompensated liver disease is also known as decompensated cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease that’s commonly the result of hepatitis or alcohol use disorder. Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver seen at the terminal stages of chronic liver disease. When your liver is damaged, scar tissue is formed as it tries to repair itself.

Cirrhosis is divided into two categories:

  • Compensated: When you don’t have any symptoms of the disease, you’re considered to have compensated cirrhosis.
  • Decompensated: When your cirrhosis has progressed to the point that the liver is having trouble functioning and you start having symptoms of the disease, you’re considered to have decompensated cirrhosis.

When compensated liver disease progresses to decompensated liver disease, typical symptoms can include:

The scarring that defines cirrhosis can be caused by a number of liver diseases. The three most common are:

Other causes include:

If you have the symptoms of cirrhosis and they persist to a point that you feel they are outside of a normal range, make an appointment to see your doctor.

If you have been diagnosed with cirrhosis in the past, see your doctor if you experience:

The treatment of decompensated liver disease is focused on stopping the progression of the disease and managing the symptoms to improve quality of life. Treatment depends on the root cause of the disease. This may include:

  • stopping alcohol consumption
  • losing weight
  • hepatitis medication, such as ribavirin (Ribasphere), entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread) or lamivudine (Epivir)
  • medications to control other causes, such as ursodiol (Actigall) for primary biliary cholangitis or penicillamine (Cuprimine) for Wilson’s disease

People with severe liver damage may need a liver transplant.

People diagnosed with decompensated cirrhosis have an average life expectancy between 1 and 3 years. However, this depends on age, overall health, and potential complications, such as the severity of symptoms and other diseases.

For people who get a liver transplant, research shows that the 5 year survival rate is about 75 percent. Many liver transplant recipients are able to live a normal life for over twenty years or more after the operation.

Decompensated liver disease is a very serious condition that can lead to death. If you’re concerned you may be at risk for decompensated liver disease or you’re experiencing symptoms of decompensated liver disease, see your doctor and discuss your options.