Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Font Size

Cirrhosis: Beta-Blockers for Portal Hypertension and Varices - Topic Overview

In people who have cirrhosis, portal hypertension causes many problems. One serious complication is bleeding of enlarged veins, or varices, in the digestive tract (variceal bleeding).

When the buildup of scar tissue caused by cirrhosis reduces the flow of blood through the liver, pressure may build up in the portal vein system, which filters blood from the intestines through the liver. In turn, veins in the esophagus, stomach, and rectum may enlarge to accommodate the pressure from the blocked blood flow. The walls of these expanded veins become thin and may rupture and bleed.

Recommended Related to Digestive Disorders

Diverticulitis Diet

Sometimes, especially as they get older, people can develop little bulging pouches in the lining of the large intestine. These are called diverticula, and the condition is known as diverticulosis. When the pouches become inflamed or infected, it leads to a sometimes very painful condition called diverticulitis. In addition to having abdominal pain, people with diverticulitis may experience nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, constipation, or diarrhea. Many experts believe that a low-fiber diet can...

Read the Diverticulitis Diet article > >

One way to prevent an episode of variceal bleeding is to lower the blood pressure in the enlarged veins. By slowing the heart rate and widening the blood vessels, beta-blocker medicines such as propranolol and nadolol appear to lower the blood pressure in varices that bypass the liver. In people who have esophageal varices, beta-blockers have been shown to reduce the risk of having a first episode of bleeding.1 They are usually prescribed for people who have moderate-to-large varices.

Beta-blockers may cause side effects that lead people to stop taking them. Common side effects can include fatigue and dizziness. Less common side effects can include asthma getting worse, nightmares, or confusion. Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure can occur if the medicine is withdrawn suddenly. Studies have shown that for people who have high-risk varices and cannot take beta-blockers because of side effects, other treatment options such as variceal banding may be a better choice.1

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Cirrhosis: Beta-Blockers for Portal Hypertension and Varices Topics

Today on WebMD

myth and facts about constipation
Slideshow
what is ibs
Article
 
toilet paper
Quiz
Fastfood
Article
 

top foods for probiotics
Slideshow
couple eating at cafe
Article
 
sick child
Slideshow
Woman blowing bubble gum
Slideshow
 

Woman with crohns in pain
Slideshow
Woman with stomach pain
Slideshow
 
diet for diverticulitis
Video
what causes diarrhea
Video