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.
Your doctor will recommend some lifestyle changes to help prevent further liver damage.
- Stop drinking alcohol. You need to quit
- 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)
hepatitis A(What is a PDF document?) and
hepatitis B(What is a PDF document?),
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.
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
It's important to work with your doctor to watch your condition, especially because symptoms may not start until a problem has
become severe. In addition to regular checkups and lab tests,
you will also need periodic screening for enlarged veins (varices) and liver cancer
- The American College of Gastroenterology
recommends testing for varices with endoscopy for all people who have
been diagnosed with cirrhosis. If your initial test does not find any varices, you can be
tested again in 2 to 3 years. If you already have large varices, you may need
more frequent testing and treatment with beta-blocker medicines to try to
prevent future bleeding episodes.1
- Testing to check for liver cancer usually takes place every 6
months. You will likely have a test for alpha-fetoprotein
and a liver ultrasound or a magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI).