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What Is Portal Hypertension?

How Is Portal Hypertension Treated?

Unfortunately, most causes of portal hypertension cannot be treated. Instead, treatment focuses on preventing or managing the complications, especially the bleeding from the varices. Diet, medications, endoscopic therapy, surgery, and radiology procedures all have a role in treating or preventing the complications. Other treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and on how well your liver is functioning.

Treatment may include:

  • Endoscopic therapy. This is usually the first line of treatment for variceal bleeding and consists of either banding or sclerotherapy. Banding is a procedure in which a gastroenterologist uses rubber bands to block off the blood vessel to stop bleeding. Sclerotherapy is occasionally used when banding cannot be used and is a procedure in which a blood-clotting solution is injected into the bleeding varices to stop bleeding.
  • Medications. Nonselective beta-blockers (nadolol or propranolol) may be prescribed alone or in combination with endoscopic therapy to reduce the pressure in varices and further reduce the risk of bleeding. Nonselective beta blockers are also prescribed to prevent a first variceal hemorrhage in a patient with varices that are felt to be at risk for bleeding. Esophageal variceal banding has also been used for that purpose, especially in patients who can't take beta blockers. The drug lactulose can help treat confusion and other mental changes associated with encephalopathy.

What Lifestyle Changes Should Be Made for Portal Hypertension?

Maintaining good nutritional habits and keeping a healthy lifestyle may help you avoid portal hypertension. Some of the things you can do to improve the function of your liver include the following:

  • Do not use alcohol or street drugs.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter or prescription drugs or herbal medicines without first consulting your doctor or nurse. (Some medications may make liver disease worse.)
  • Follow the dietary guidelines given by your health care provider, including eating a low-sodium (salt) diet. You will probably be required to consume no more than 2 grams of sodium per day. Reduced protein intake may be required if confusion is a symptom. A dietitian can create a meal plan for you.

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