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What Are the Treatments for Cirrhosis?

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Cirrhosis isn't curable, but it’s treatable. Doctors have two main goals in treating this disease: Stop the damage to your liver, and prevent complications.

Alcohol abuse, hepatitis, and fatty liver disease are some of the main causes. Your doctor will personalize your treatment based on what caused your cirrhosis, and the amount of liver damage you have.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Your liver breaks down and removes toxins from your body. Alcohol is a toxin. When you drink too much, your liver has to work extra hard to process it.

To protect your liver, you must stop drinking. That can be hard to do, especially if you've become dependent on alcohol. Ask your doctor about things you can try that may help you stop drinking, such as:

12-step and other support programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
One-on-one counseling with a therapist
Support groups to help you manage the factors that make you drink
Inpatient rehab programs
Prescription medicines like naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol) and acamprosate (Campral)

Hepatitis Treatments

The hepatitis B and C viruses cause liver damage that can lead to cirrhosis. Treatments for these diseases can help prevent liver damage. Options include:

Antiviral drugs. These attack the hepatitis virus. Which drug you get depends on the type of hepatitis you have. The most common side effects from these medicines are weakness, headache, nausea, and sleep problems.

Interferon (interferon alpha 2b, pegylated interferon). This helps your immune system fight off the hepatitis virus. Side effects can include trouble breathing, dizziness, weight changes, and depression.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Treatments

This is a buildup of fat that damages the liver. You can get it if you're overweight or obese. One way to combat this cause of liver damage is to lose weight with diet and exercise.

Treatments for Autoimmune Hepatitis and Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

In both of these diseases, your body’s natural defense system (immune system) attacks and damages your liver. Primary biliary cirrhosis destroys the bile duct -- the tube that carries the digestive fluid (bile) from the liver to the gallbladder and intestine.

Doctors treat autoimmune hepatitis with steroid drugs and other medicines that stop the immune system from attacking the liver. Side effects may include weight gain, diabetes, weak bones, and high blood pressure.

The main treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis is to slow liver damage with the drug ursodiol (Actigall, Urso). Ursodiol can cause side effects like diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, and back pain.


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