Treatment for Cirrhosis

In this section:

How do doctors treat cirrhosis?

Doctors do not have specific treatments that can cure cirrhosis and reverse damage to the liver. However, treating the causes of cirrhosis may prevent cirrhosis or slow the liver damage. Treating the complications of cirrhosis may keep them from getting worse and prevent liver failure.

How do doctors treat the causes of cirrhosis?

To treat the causes of cirrhosis, doctors often recommend lifestyle changes or prescribe medicines to prevent more liver damage. Doctors may recommend that people with cirrhosis stop activities, such as drinking alcohol and taking certain medicines, that may have caused cirrhosis or can make cirrhosis worse. For people who have cirrhosis and have overweight or obesity, doctors may recommend trying to lose weight.

Treatment of alcohol-associated liver disease

For people who have alcohol-associated liver disease, or damage to the liver and its function from drinking too much alcohol, doctors will recommend that they completely stop drinking alcohol and may refer them for alcohol treatment.

Treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

To treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), doctors may recommend weight loss. For people who have overweight or obesity and NAFLD, weight loss can help reduce fat in the liver, inflammation, and scarring. Some people with cirrhosis can lose weight through healthy meal planning and regular physical activity, and doctors sometimes recommend additional weight-loss treatments such as medicines or surgery.

Treatment of chronic hepatitis C

To treat a chronic, or long-term, infection of the hepatitis C virus, doctors may prescribe one or more antiviral medicines that attack the virus. Studies have shown that these medicines can cure more than 95% of people with chronic hepatitis C in 8 to 12 weeks.4

Treatment of chronic hepatitis B

To treat a chronic infection of the hepatitis B virus, doctors may prescribe antiviral medicines that slow or stop the virus from further damaging your liver.

Treatment of autoimmune hepatitis

Doctors treat autoimmune hepatitis with medicines that suppress, or decrease the activity of, the immune system.

Treatment of diseases that damage, destroy, or block bile ducts

Doctors usually treat diseases that damage, destroy, or block bile ducts using medicines or medical procedures to open bile ducts that have become narrow or blocked. Diseases that damage, destroy, or block bile ducts include primary biliary cholangitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Treatment of inherited liver diseases

Treatment of inherited liver diseases depends on the disease. Treatments may help prevent, improve, or manage symptoms and complications such as cirrhosis.

Treatment of cirrhosis due to long-term use of certain medicines

If taking certain medicines causes cirrhosis, the only treatment is usually to stop taking the medicines that caused the problem. Talk with your doctor before you stop taking any medicines.

How do doctors treat the complications of cirrhosis?

Treatments for the complications of cirrhosis may include the following.

Portal hypertension

Doctors treat portal hypertension with medicines to lower high blood pressure in the portal vein. Doctors may also treat the following complications of portal hypertension.

Buildup of fluid in the abdomen

A buildup of fluid in the abdomen, or belly, is called ascites. To treat ascites, doctors may prescribe medicines that remove fluid from the body. Doctors may also recommend that people with cirrhosis limit the amount of sodium they eat or drink. If large amounts of fluid build up in the abdomen, doctors may use a needle or tube to drain the fluid and check the fluid for signs of infection. Doctors may prescribe medicines to treat infection or prevent infection.

Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet

To treat swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet—called edema—doctors may prescribe medicines that remove fluid from the body. Doctors may also recommend that people with cirrhosis limit how much sodium they eat or drink.

Enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach

Enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach are called varices. To treat varices, doctors may prescribe medicines to lower the blood pressure in the veins. Lowering the pressure in the veins reduces the chance that the veins will become enlarged and burst, causing internal bleeding. People who vomit blood or have black or bloody stools should go to a hospital right away. Doctors may perform procedures during an upper GI endoscopy or use surgical procedures to stop the bleeding.

Buildup of toxins in the brain

A buildup of toxins in the brain, called hepatic encephalopathy, can cause confusion, difficulty thinking, memory loss, personality changes, or sleep disorders. Doctors may prescribe medicines that help lower the levels of toxins in the brain and improve brain function.


Doctors will prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

Liver cancer

If you have cirrhosis, your doctor may suggest blood tests and an ultrasound or another type of imaging test to check for liver cancer. Doctors may recommend checking for liver cancer every 6 months.5 Finding cancer at an early stage improves the chance of curing the cancer.

For people who develop liver cancer, doctors may treat the cancer with medical procedures that remove or destroy cancer cells, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Doctors may also treat liver cancer with a liver transplant.

Liver failure

Liver failure, also called end-stage liver disease, happens when the liver stops working. The only treatment for liver failure is a liver transplant.

Other complications

Doctors may treat other complications through changes in medicines, diet, or physical activity. Doctors may also recommend surgery.

What can I do to help keep my cirrhosis from getting worse?

If you have cirrhosis, you can take steps to help keep cirrhosis from getting worse.

When do doctors consider a liver transplant for cirrhosis?

A doctor talking with a male patient.Talk with your doctor about whether a liver transplant is right for you.

Doctors will consider a liver transplant when cirrhosis leads to liver failure. Doctors consider liver transplants only after they have ruled out all other treatment options. A successful liver transplant can be a life-saving procedure for people with liver failure. Talk with your doctor about whether a liver transplant is right for you.


Last Reviewed June 2023
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.