Treating Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a condition where the liver is damaged. Scar tissue slowly replaces healthy tissue. This makes the liver stop working correctly. Treatment can control or slow liver scarring. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions closely to get the most out of your treatment. And ask your family and friends for support.

Making a treatment plan

You and your healthcare provider will decide on a treatment plan that’s best for you. The plan may include 1 or more of the following:

  • Not drinking alcohol. Heavy alcohol use can damage the liver. Once the liver is damaged, even a small amount of alcohol can cause problems. You can slow down the cirrhosis getting worse if you stop all alcohol use. 

  • Taking medicines. You may need to take these to treat some causes of cirrhosis. These include infection or a bile duct blockage. For instance, hepatitis C can now be cured with medicine. And you may need medicine if your immune system is attacking the liver or bile ducts. You shouldn't take certain other medicines if you have cirrhosis. These include NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen.  They can cause kidney damage in people with cirrhosis.

  • Treating symptoms. Cirrhosis can cause swelling in your stomach and legs. A low-salt diet can help ease this symptom. Stay under about 2,000 mg of sodium a day. Taking water pills (diuretics) may also be prescribed to help with swelling. Cirrhosis can also cause mental confusion. Medicines are used to treat this.

  • Eating healthy foods

  • Losing extra weight. This is especially important if you are overweight, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol and triglycerides. Controlling these conditions can slow down the cirrhosis getting worse. Exercise can help you lose weight. 

  • Removing iron from your blood. Sometimes the amount of iron in your liver is higher than normal. Your healthcare provider may remove extra iron from your blood.

Severe cases of cirrhosis may need special treatments. Your healthcare provider can discuss them with you.

Vaccines

Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about advised vaccines. These include vaccines for viruses than can cause liver disease.

Don't drink alcohol

Alcohol use can destroy liver cells. If you have problems quitting alcohol, ask your healthcare provider for help with getting the support you need. They may be able to suggest local groups that can help you stop drinking.

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