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Treating Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a condition where the liver is damaged. Scar tissue slowly replaces healthy tissue. 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 one or more of the following:

  • Avoiding 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 progression of cirrhosis if you stop all alcohol use. 

  • Medicines. These may be given to treat some causes of cirrhosis, such as infection or a bile duct blockage. If needed, medicine may be used to improve blood clotting. And medicine can be given if your immune system is attacking the liver or bile ducts.

  • Other medicines should be avoided in cirrhosis. These are NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and similar. They can hurt the kidney in cirrhosis. 

  • Treating symptoms. Cirrhosis can cause swelling in the stomach and legs. A low-salt diet can help relieve this symptom. So can taking “water pills” (diuretics).

  • Eating healthy foods

  • Losing excess weight. If you have metabolic problems like being overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol and triglycerides, if you improve those diseases, you can also slow down the progression of cirrhosis. Exercise is very important. 

  • Removal of iron from the blood to decrease iron levels in liver tissue if these levels are high.

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

Avoiding alcohol

Alcohol use can destroy liver cells. If you have problems quitting alcohol, get the support you need. Your healthcare provider may be able to suggest local groups that can help you stop drinking alcohol.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kolbus, Karin, RN, DNP, COHN-S
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Last Review Date: 6/1/2016
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