What are the treatment options for cirrhosis and portal hypertension?
Once liver cells have been damaged, nothing can be done to repair the liver or cure cirrhosis. Treatment is aimed at avoiding further damage to the liver and preventing and treating complications (such as bleeding from broken blood vessels). Your doctor may prescribe a medicine to help prevent your blood vessels from breaking open. Drugs that prevent broken blood vessels have some side effects. Not everyone can take them. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to lower blood pressure if you have portal hypertension.
If medicine isn’t enough, surgery may help stop bleeding from broken blood vessels. One option is to interrupt the flow of blood to swollen varices in the area where the esophagus (the tube leading to the stomach) attaches to the stomach. A long lighted tube is passed through the mouth to the stomach. Then, rubber bands or hardening chemicals are placed on the swollen blood vessels to block them off.
If this procedure isn’t successful, a person with portal hypertension may need to have a surgeon connect the blood vessels in such a way that the blood doesn’t flow through the liver. Another kind of procedure, called TIPS (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt), may be done in some cases.
What can I do to help myself?
If you drink alcohol, the most important thing you can do is stop. Alcohol just keeps damaging your liver. Some medicines, vitamins and herbal remedies can also damage your liver. Talk with your doctor before you take any medicines, including antibiotics, birth control pills and even over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol).
It’s also important for you to take good care of yourself. When resting, be sure to prop up your feet and legs, especially if they are swollen. Eat a balanced diet. You may need to watch how much protein and sugar you eat. Avoiding salt may also help with fluid retention and swelling. Ask your doctor if you should follow a special diet.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff