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Cirrhosis - Topic Overview

The doctor will start with a physical exam and questions about your symptoms and past health. If the doctor suspects cirrhosis, you may have blood tests and imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan. These tests can help your doctor find out what is causing the liver damage and how severe it is.

To confirm that you have cirrhosis, the doctor may do a liver biopsy. This means that he or she will use a needle to take a sample of liver tissue for testing.

Treatment may include medicines, surgery, or other options, depending on the cause of your cirrhosis and what problems it is causing. It is important to get treated for cirrhosis as soon as possible. Treatment cannot cure cirrhosis. But it can sometimes prevent or delay further liver damage.

There are things you can do to help limit the damage to your liver and control the symptoms:

  • Do not drink any alcohol. If you don't stop completely, liver damage may quickly get worse.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any medicines. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements, and herbs. Medicines that can hurt your liver include acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and other pain medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve).
  • Make sure that your immunizations are up-to-date. You are at higher risk for infections.
  • Follow a low-sodium diet. This can help prevent fluid buildup, a common problem in cirrhosis that can become life-threatening.

Symptoms may not appear until a problem is severe. So it's important to see your doctor for regular checkups and lab tests. You may also need testing to check for possible problems such as enlarged veins in your digestive tract or liver cancer.

If cirrhosis becomes life-threatening, then a liver transplant may be an option. But a transplant is expensive, organs are hard to find, and it doesn't always work.

Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have serious illnesses. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life-not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit.

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