Cirrhosis of the Liver
What Complications Are Caused by Cirrhosis of the Liver? continued...
Other serious complications of cirrhosis of the liver include:
- Reduced oxygen in the blood
- Changes in blood counts
- Increased risk of infections
- Excessive bleeding and bruising
- Breast enlargement in men
- Premature menopause
- Loss of muscle mass
Most of these complications can initially be treated with medicines or dietary changes. Once treatment for these complications becomes ineffective, a liver transplant is considered. Almost all of the complications can be cured by liver transplantation; however, in many circumstances, careful management can reduce the harmful effects of cirrhosis and delay or even prevent the need for a liver transplant.
What Is the Treatment for Cirrhosis of the Liver?
Although there is no cure for cirrhosis of the liver, there are treatments available that can stop or delay its progress, minimize the damage to liver cells, and reduce complications.
The treatment used depends on the cause of cirrhosis of the liver.
- For cirrhosis caused by alcohol abuse, the person must stop drinking alcohol to halt the progression of cirrhosis.
- If a person has hepatitis, the doctor may prescribe steroids or antiviral drugs to reduce liver cell injury.
- For people with cirrhosis caused by autoimmune diseases, Wilson's disease, or hemochromatosis, the treatment varies.
Medications may be given to control the symptoms of cirrhosis. Edema (fluid retention) and ascites (fluid in the abdomen) are treated, in part, by reducing salt in the diet. Drugs called diuretics are used to remove excess fluid and to prevent edema from recurring. Diet and drug therapies can help improve the altered mental function that cirrhosis can cause. Laxatives such as lactulose may be given to help absorb toxins and speed their removal from the intestines.
Liver transplantation may be needed for some people with severe cirrhosis.
How Can I Prevent Cirrhosis of the Liver?
There are several ways to reduce your risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver:
- Don't abuse alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, limit how much you drink and how often. Remember, it's not only the heavy drinker who gets cirrhosis. If you drink more than 2 drinks a day, you are increasing your risk. A drink is a 5-oz glass of wine, a 12-oz can of beer, or a 1 1/2-oz portion of hard liquor.
- Avoid high-risk sexual behavior such as unprotected sexual contact with multiple partners.
- Be careful around synthetic chemicals, such as cleaning products and pesticides. If you come into contact with chemicals often, wear protective clothing and a facemask.
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet high in fruits and vegetables and take vitamins.
- Maintain a healthy weight, because excess body fat can cause fatty liver, which may lead to liver disease.