Treatment is essentially directed towards relieving symptoms and delaying the development of complications (See guidance on individual diseases causing cirrhosis for specific treatments). Since cirrhosis is the end stage of a pathological process that has irreversibly damaged the liver, curative treatment is not possible.
In the later stages there may be sudden episodes of deterioration in liver function, when the cirrhosis is described as ‘decompensated’. This can be precipitated by excessive alcoholic consumption, infection or bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract (oesophageal varices). The person will be admitted to hospital for treatment, when liver function may be improved and returned to its pre admission level.
In alcoholic cirrhosis the person must abstain from alcohol to prevent further deterioration. Care must be taken to avoid any medications that are potentially toxic to the liver. Good nutrition should be maintained with provision of fat-soluble vitamins and other supplements. Ascites may be treated with diuretics or drained away if excessive.
Some people with cirrhosis will be suitable for liver transplantation.