Cirrhosis Treatments

It's no surprise that you need a liver to live. This important organ cannot do its job if continued scarring and the resulting lack of blood flow deteriorates it and limits or eliminates its ability to function. The good news is that your liver is an amazing organ. It has the power to regenerate most of its cells should they become scarred and damaged. Cirrhosis treatments will help support your liver in repairing itself to its optimal function.

Treatment focus

Depending upon what is causing your cirrhosis, your doctor will work with you to create an individual treatment plan. The main goal of cirrhosis treatments is to delay or, if possible, cease any liver damage. An aggressive, targeted approach will go a long way toward preventing complications like liver failure from ever developing.

Cirrhosis treatments

If you've been diagnosed with cirrhosis, the first thing on your mind will likely be treatments. There are a few approaches that can be taken when treating cirrhosis and the complications that cirrhosis causes. Knowledge is power, so learn what you can. The treatment options are:

  • Nutrition: Which came first-the cirrhosis or the nutritional deficiencies? Either way, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, an important treatment approach centers on improving and targeting nutrition, regardless of the stage of the disease. A meal plan that offers well-balanced choices should be created for you by your doctor and nutritionist. Raw shellfish should not be eaten, as it may present your liver with the challenge of a serious infection. A diet low in sodium will be prescribed if the disease has advanced to the point where fluids are collecting in your abdomen (ascites). Vitamins and supplements may provide a way to augment your diet, if your doctor approves them.
  • Substance avoidance: If your liver is damaged by cirrhosis, your doctor will recommend avoiding alcohol and illegal substances that may further injure the organ. Additionally, your physician should approve all medication and vitamins due to their potential effect on your liver.
  • Diuretics: Should your cirrhosis present with edema (fluid retention) or ascites, diuretic medication will be prescribed to reduce fluid that has built up in the body. Severe ascites will likely require intravenous antibiotics.
  • Beta-blockers or nitrates: Cirrhosis may cause increased pressure in the vein that delivers blood from the intestines and spleen to the liver (portal hypertension). The use of hypertension medication like beta-blockers helps lower blood pressure and lowers bleeding risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, surgery may be necessary to place a stent in the portal vein to keep it open.
  • Hemodialysis: Should cirrhosis lead to hepatorenal failure, regular hemodialysis treatments will be required to remove toxins from the blood. Drugs can also be prescribed to help the kidney's circulation.
  • Lactulose bowel cleanse: Should reduced brain function occur from hepatic encephalopathy (toxin buildup in the brain) as a result of cirrhosis and the liver's inability to remove toxins, cleansing the bowel through the use of a lactulose laxative may be required. Antibiotics may also be added to the cleansing treatment if needed.
  • Liver transplant: Advanced cirrhosis is treated by a liver transplant when liver failure is evident. A liver may be available through a deceased donor. A living donor may also donate part of his liver.
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