Cirrhosis can't be cured, so t reatment aims to manage the symptoms and any complications,and stopthe condition getting worse.
It's usually not possible to reverseliver damage that's already occurred, although recent research suggests this may eventually be possible in cases where the underlying cause can be successfully treated.
Treatment is likely to take place at a hospital with a specialist hepatology unit, which treats disorders of the liver, gallbladder and biliary ducts.
Taking medication to treatthe underlying cause of the liver damage and making healthy lifestyle changes can help stop cirrhosis getting worse and reduce your risk of developing further health problems.
The medication you need will depend on the specific cause of the damage to your liver.
For example, if you have viralhepatitis, you may be prescribed anti-viral medications.
If you have autoimmune hepatitis, you may be given steroid medication (corticosteroids) or medication to suppress your immune system (immunosuppressants).
There are a number of things you can do to help yourself stay healthy and reduce your chances of developing further problems if you have cirrhosis.
Malnutrition is common in people with cirrhosis, so it's important to ensure you have a balanced diet to help you get all the nutrients you need.
Avoiding salty foods andnot adding salt to foods you eat can help reduce your risk of developing swelling in yourlegs, feet and tummy (abdomen) caused by a build-up of fluid.
See tips for a lower salt diet for more information.
The damage to your liver can alsomean it'sunable to store glycogen,a carbohydrate that provides short-term energy.
When this happens, the body uses its own muscle tissue to provide energy between meals, which leads to muscle wasting and weakness. This means youmay need extra calories and protein in your diet.
Healthy snacking between meals can top up your calories and protein.It may also be helpful to eat three or four small meals a day, rather than one or two large meals.
A number of treatments can ease the symptoms of cirrhosis, including:
In cases of advanced cirrhosis, complications caused by the condition mayneed treatment.
If you vomit blood or pass blood in your stools , you probably have swollen veins in your oesophagus, the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. These are known as oesophageal varices.
Urgent medical attention is required in these cases. This means seeing your GP or going to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital immediately.
Certain procedures can help stop the bleeding and reduce the risk of it happening again, such as:
You may also be given a type of medication called a beta-blocker , such as propanolol, to reduce the risk of bleeding or the severity of any bleed thatdoes occur.
A build-up of fluid around your stomach area (ascites) and fluid around your legs and ankles (peripheral oedema ) are common complications of advanced cirrhosis. They'll need to be addressed as soon as possible.
You may have 20 to 30 litres of free water in your stomach area, which can make it difficult for you to eat and breathe properly.
The main treatments for ascites and oedema are restrictingsalt in your diet and taking diuretic tablets, such as spironolactone or furosemide.
If thefluid around your stomach becomes infected, you may need to be treated with antibiotics . Alternatively, antibiotics may be used on a regular basisto prevent infection in people at high risk.
In severe cases of ascites, tubes may be used to drain the fluid from your abdomen. This will usually be repeated every few weeks.
People with cirrhosis can sometimes develop problems with their brain function (encephalopathy) . This occurs because the liver isn't clearing toxins properly.
The main treatment for encephalopathy is lactulose syrup. This acts as a laxative to help clear the bowels, and helps the body remove the toxins that build up in the body when the liver is failing. In some cases, other laxatives or an enema may be used.
Cirrhosis can affect the liver's ability to make the blood clot, leaving you at risk of severe bleeding if you cut yourself.
Vitamin K and a blood product called plasma can be given in emergencies to treat episodes of bleeding. You'll need to apply pressure to any cuts that bleed.
You should seek specialist advice before having medical procedures, including any dental work.
Your liver may stop functioning if it's severely damaged by scarring. In this situation, a liver transplant is the only option.
This is a major procedure that involves removing your diseased liver and replacing it with a healthy donor liver.
You will probably have to wait a long time for a liver transplant asthere are more people waiting for a transplant than there are donors.
The NHS Blood and Transplant Organ Donation website has more information about transplants and joining the Organ Donor Register .
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver as a result of long-term liver damage. Find out what the signs and symptoms are, when to see your GP, and how it can be treated and prevented.
There are usually very few symptoms during the early stages of cirrhosis. As the condition progresses, symptoms can include tiredness, loss of appetite and very itchy skin.
There are many different causes of cirrhosis. In the UK, the most common causes are drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and long-term hepatitis C infections.
Find out about the tests used to measure liver function and liver damage and how cirrhosis is diagnosed.
Read more about how the symptoms of cirrhosis can be managed using medication and lifestyle changes. Also, find out how the complications of cirrhosis can be treated.
Find out how to reduce your chances of developing cirrhosis by limiting your alcohol consumption and protecting yourself from a hepatitis infection.
Six months of heavy drinking during a stressful period at work left Judith Heath with cirrhosis. She tells her story.