Micronodular cirrhosis is a type of cirrhosis that forms small nodules due to liver scarring. This can prevent your liver from functioning properly and cause a range of complications.

Cirrhosis happens when your liver becomes scarred and damaged by long-term inflammation.

Many long-term conditions can result in cirrhosis. Hepatitis, alcohol use disorder, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are some of the main causes. Cirrhosis affects as many as 4.5 million people in the United States.

Read this article to learn about micronodular cirrhosis, including the differences from other types of cirrhosis and how doctors spot, diagnose, and treat this condition.

Doctors separate cirrhosis into different types based on various factors. The difference between micronodular and macronodular cirrhosis stems from the size of the nodules that appear on the liver as a result of scarring.

Micronodular cirrhosis forms small nodules, each less than 3 millimeters (mm) (0.1 inches) in diameter.

Macronodular cirrhosis forms larger nodules that vary greatly in size but are more than 3 mm in diameter.

Micronodular cirrhosis can transform into macronodular cirrhosis over time. Sometimes, doctors identify a third type of cirrhosis, called mixed cirrhosis, which causes both small and large nodules.

The symptoms of micronodular cirrhosis are similar to those of other types of cirrhosis. At first, you may not have any symptoms. As scarring progresses, you may begin to notice the following:

The following conditions can cause micronodular cirrhosis:

Micronodular cirrhosis is a potentially life threatening condition because it affects liver function. Possible complications include:

  • Frequent infections: Having cirrhosis makes it harder for your body to fight viruses and bacteria.
  • Portal hypertension: This condition causes increased pressure in your portal vein, which connects your liver with other organs in your digestive system. This is a life threatening condition that can cause internal bleeding.
  • Gallstones: Scarring can affect bile flow, causing bile to harden into gallstones.
  • Splenomegaly: This condition is a complication of portal hypertension that results in an enlarged spleen.
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma: Cirrhosis increases your risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the most common type of liver cancer.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy: This condition involves a buildup of toxins in your brain. It can cause mental confusion and can eventually progress into a coma.

To diagnose cirrhosis, a doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and social history (for example, daily alcohol intake). They will also perform a physical exam to assess the size of your liver and look for other signs of liver disease.

In addition, they will order lab tests, including:

Micronodular cirrhosis can be identified on an MRI. However, the most definitive tool to diagnose cirrhosis is a liver biopsy.

Treatment for micronodular cirrhosis includes:

The average 10-year survival rate for people with compensated (asymptomatic) cirrhosis is 47%. However, once you begin experiencing symptoms, your life expectancy may decrease significantly.

Be sure to ask your doctor about your individual odds of survival with micronodular cirrhosis.

Read more about life expectancy with cirrhosis.

What is a 10-year survival rate?

Health professionals often use survival rate as a measure of a disease’s outlook. A 10-year survival rate represents the percentage of people with the disease who are still alive at least 10 years after their diagnosis.

“Relative survival rate” is another commonly used term. This is a measure of how many people with the disease are alive a set number of years later compared with people without the disease.

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Living with micronodular cirrhosis can be challenging because it requires significant lifestyle changes. Quitting alcohol can be especially difficult, but there are resources and support groups that can help.

In addition, symptoms and complications of cirrhosis can be hard to deal with, both physically and emotionally. Be sure to speak with your healthcare team about any challenges you experience while navigating this condition.

Let’s figure out when you need to see a doctor, both before and after your diagnosis.

If you don’t have a micronodular cirrhosis diagnosis

Be sure to speak with a doctor if you experience any symptoms of liver disease, such as:

  • pain, discomfort, or swelling in your abdomen
  • fatigue or weakness
  • jaundice

If you’ve received a diagnosis of micronodular cirrhosis

Speak with your hepatologist if you have any new symptoms or if your condition is getting worse.

Micronodular cirrhosis is a serious condition that causes liver scarring. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further liver damage. With appropriate care, people with micronodular cirrhosis can live for many years.

However, complications of this condition can be life threatening. If you’ve received a diagnosis of micronodular cirrhosis, it’s important to follow your treatment plan and your doctor’s advice on lifestyle changes.