Treatment Options for Cirrhosis

Updated at: Jan 19, 2013
Treatment Options for Cirrhosis

There is no cure for cirrhosis. Treatment aims to improve symptoms, manage complications, treat the underlying cause and prevent the condition from getting worse. In the case of severe liver damage, liver transplant may be needed.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Other DiseasesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Sep 03, 2012

There is no cure for cirrhosis because the liver damage that had occurred already cannot be reversed. Treatment aims to improve the symptoms, manage complications and prevent the condition from getting worse. Treatment is also influenced by the underlying cause.

Preventing worsening of cirrhosis: Some ways in which worsening of cirrhosis can be prevented include:

  • treatment of the underlying disease, which caused liver damage and cirrhosis, such as in the cases of chronic hepatitis B infection, interferon (standard and pegylated) and antiviral drugs (such as lamivudine, adefovir, entecavir, telbivudine and tenofovir) can help to stop multiplication of the virus in the liver and slow down or prevent further liver damage and progression of cirrhosis. In people with autoimmune hepatitis steroid (such as prednisolone) or an immunosuppressant (such as azathioprine) can help to slow down or prevent further liver damage and progression of cirrhosis.
  • lifestyle changes, such as reducing alcohol intake, losing excess weight, etc can prevent further liver damage.

Easing symptoms

Some treatments that can improve symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • taking a low-sodium (salt) diet or diuretics (water tablets) to remove excess fluid in your body
  • medications to control high blood pressure in your portal vein, itching
  • treatment of infection

Treatment of complications

Swollen varices: Veins at the lower end of oesophagus (food pipe) swell and enlarge. They may bleed and cause blood in vomiting or blood in faeces. Endoscopy can show varices. If you experience bleeding from varices, urgent medical attention is needed. Your doctor will try to stop the bleeding by certain procedures, such as banding of the varices, injection sclerotherapy (a chemical is injected into the varices to make the blood clot and form scar tissue; this helps to stop the bleeding), balloon inflation (inflation of balloon in Sengstaken tube puts pressure on the varices and stops the bleeding) and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt (TIPSS).

Fluid in the abdomen and legs: Treatment to reduce ascites (a build-up of fluid around the abdomen) and edema (fluid around your legs and ankles) includes restriction of sodium (salt) in diet and taking diuretic (water tablets), such as spironolactone or furosemide. If the ascites is severe, tubes may be inserted in the abdomen to drain the fluid.

Encephalopathy: Cirrhosis can affect the function of the brain because of accumulation of toxins and waste products in the blood. Encephalopathy (impaired brain’s functioning) can cause confusion, drowsiness, altered consciousness and coma. Treatment of encephalopathy includes reducing protein intake and antibiotics to remove toxin producing bacteria and waste from the gut by laxatives or enemas.

Bleeding: Tendency to bleed and bruise easily is increased in cirrhosis as the liver cannot make enough proteins needed to clot blood. Treatment for increased risk of bleeding or if bleeding occurs includes Vitamin K injection and plasma.

Liver transplant: In cases of severe liver damage, liver transplant may be needed. In this procedure, the diseased liver is removed by surgery and replaced with a healthy donor liver.


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