Treating the cause of cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis can develop from anything that causes sustained damage to the liver, such as alcohol, hepatitis infections, autoimmune conditions, and inherited diseases. This means that treatment depends on the underlying cause and will therefore differ between patients.1

Although some of the underlying causes are treatable, liver cirrhosis may ultimately still progress to liver failure, at which point your healthcare team may consider a liver transplant.1

Managing the complications of cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis can lead to various complications, all requiring different treatments.1


Ascites is a common complication of cirrhosis. It is the accumulation of excess fluid in the abdomen.1 If you’re experiencing ascites, you may be given medications called diuretics. You may also be advised to limit the amount of salt in your diet. If fluid continues to build up in the abdomen and does not resolve, your healthcare team may need to carry out paracentesis.2 Paracentesis is a procedure in which a healthcare professional inserts a drain into the abdomen and removes the excess fluid.3

Variceal bleeding

Another serious complication of cirrhosis is variceal bleeding. Varices are abnormal veins that develop in liver disease, typically in the gullet or stomach lining, due to increased pressure in the veins. These swollen and abnormal veins are dangerous because they can burst and cause internal bleeding.1

There are several management options for variceal bleeding. You might be given medications to lower your blood pressure. Surgical treatment methods involve putting a band around the bleeding vein to stop it from bleeding or injecting it with a substance that helps stop the bleeding. If these interventions do not stop the bleeding, surgical interventions may be recommended.4 Please speak to your healthcare team if you require further information.

Hepatic Encephalopathy

Hepatic encephalopathy is another complication of liver disease. In hepatic encephalopathy, the liver cannot clear toxins such as ammonia from the bloodstream. If toxin levels rise it can reach the brain and affect its function. A laxative called lactulose can be used to manage hepatic encephalopathy. It works by reducing the growth of ammonia-producing bacteria in the bowel. Other medications, such as antibiotics, may also be used.5

Maintaining a good diet and exercise routine

 Whilst it is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet in liver cirrhosis, your individual needs will depend on the state and severity of your condition6, so check with your healthcare team if you are unsure.

A healthy diet contains adequate amounts of protein, fruits and vegetables and healthy carbohydrates. Foods high in fat, salt and sugar should be consumed in limited amounts. It is also recommended that you keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of water.6

Regular exercise is essential too. As a guide, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults get at least 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.7

Embrace change

By making changes to your lifestyle, you can make a positive change to your health. Breaking old habits and creating new routines can be difficult at first, but your healthcare team will be there to support you.

Patients affected by liver disease and their friends/relatives may also find patient groups or online resources useful for finding the support they need. Making lifestyle changes might be more manageable if others join and support you, so perhaps you can find friends or family who will take up a new exercise routine with you, or join you in your new healthier diet!

Glückliches Paar lacht umarmt in die Kamera

By making changes to your lifestyle, you can make a positive change to your health.


    1. National Institute of Health. Treatment for Cirrhosis. Available at: (Last accessed October 2020)
    2. K Moore, G Aithal, Gut 2006;55;1-12
    3. Radiopaedia. Abdominal paracentesis. Available at (Last accessed October 2020)
    4. British Liver Trust. Cirrhosis of the liver. Available at: (Last accessed October 2020)
    5. Shaker M, et al. Hepatic Encephalopathy. Cleveland Clinic. Published: June 201, last reviewed: August 2017. Available at: (Last accessed Nov 2020)
    6. British Liver Trust. A Well-Balanced Diet. Available at: (Last accessed October 2020)
    7. World Health Organisation. Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Available at (Last accessed Dec 2020)

May 2021. GL-HEP-XIF-2000182

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