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Cirrhosis - Treatment Overview

No treatment will cure cirrhosis or repair scarring in the liver that has already occurred. But treatment can sometimes prevent or delay further liver damage. Treatment involves lifestyle changes, medicines, and regular doctor visits. In some cases, you may need surgery for treatment of complications from cirrhosis.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor will recommend some lifestyle changes to help prevent further liver damage.

  • Stop drinking alcohol. You need to quit completely.
  • Talk to your doctor about all of the medicines you take, including nonprescription drugs such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (for example, Advil or Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). These could increase the risk of liver damage and bleeding.
  • Get immunized (if you have not already) against hepatitis A(What is a PDF document?) and hepatitis B(What is a PDF document?), influenza, and pneumococcus(What is a PDF document?).
  • Begin following a low-sodium diet if you have fluid buildup (ascites). Reducing your sodium intake can help prevent fluid buildup in your belly and chest.

Treatment for complications of cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can cause other problems (complications) that need treatment with medicines or procedures. Complications include:

  • Fluid buildup in the belly (ascites). It can be deadly if it is not controlled. Treatment can include:
  • Bleeding from enlarged veins.Variceal bleeding in the digestive tract can be treated with:
  • Changes in mental function.Encephalopathy may occur when the liver cannot filter poisons from the bloodstream. As these toxins build up in your blood, they can affect your brain function. You may need to:
    • Eat a limited amount of protein. Too much protein can cause toxins to build up.
    • Take lactulose. This medicine helps prevent the buildup of ammonia and other toxins in the large intestine.
    • Avoid sedative medicines, such as sleeping pills, antianxiety medicines, and narcotics. These can make symptoms of encephalopathy worse.
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