There is no cure for cirrhosis and the damage cannot be repaired. Some treatments may slow the progression of the disease. If the disease becomes advanced, a liver transplant may be needed. Treatments for cirrhosis include:
- Treat alcoholism
- Lose extra weight
- Low-protein diet
If left untreated, cirrhosis can have health complications. These complications and their treatmentsare:
Portal hypertension. When the liver hardens due to cirrhosis, the flow of blood through the veins in the liver slows down. This increases blood pressure in other veins around the liver.
Treatments include blood pressure medications and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS), in which a shunt is placed in the vein to open it up and increase blood flow.
Hepatic encephalopathy. When liver damage becomes severe it cannot do its job to clean toxins out of your blood. This means that your brain is nourished by blood full of toxic substances. This can lead to confusion, trouble thinking, personality changes, and can lead to a coma if left untreated. Treatment for hepatic encephalopathy involves giving medications that can help remove the toxins from the blood.
Edema and ascites. When the portal vein cannot carry blood properly through the abdominal cavity, fluid begins to build up in the lower legs, ankles, and abdomen (ascites). One reason this happens is that there are low albumin levels from the liver. Treatments for edema and ascites include a low-salt diet, diuretic medications, and if necessary, draining fluid from the abdomen with a needle (paracentesis).
Bleeding. The liver makes certain proteins that help your blood to clot. Cirrhosis reduces the production of these proteins and can lead to bleeding and anemia. Another bleeding condition common in cirrhosis is varices. Portal hypertension causes smaller veins to become engorged and burst, leading to bleeding. This is most common in the esophagus and abdomen. Treatments for this complication include; (1) medications such as beta-blockers to control bleeding; (2) banding to “tie-off” the varices to prevent them from getting blood flow; (3) a distal splenorenal shunt may be placed to divert blood flow away from the varices, (4) devascularization, which is complete removal of the varices; (5) the doctor may perform an esophageal transection. This means that they will cut into the esophagus and tie-off the varices.
Peritonitis. Fluid buildup in the abdomen can lead to infection in the lining of the abdominal cavity. This is treated with antibiotics and then the fluid is drained.
Liver failure. In the later stages of the disease, complete liver failure usually occurs. Once this happens, the only treatment is a liver transplant.