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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Cirrhosis is long-term scarring of the liver. The liver makes enzymes and bile that help digest food and gives your body energy. It also removes harmful material from your body, such as alcohol and other chemicals. Cirrhosis is caused by repeated damage to your liver over time. Scar tissue starts to replace healthy liver tissue. The scar tissue prevents the liver from working properly.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have pain during a bowel movement and it is black or contains blood.
- You have a fast heart rate and fast breathing.
- You are dizzy or confused.
- You have severe pain in your abdomen.
- You have trouble breathing.
- Your vomit looks like it has coffee grinds or blood in it.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have red or itchy skin.
- You are in pain and feel weak.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need medicine to treat the cause of your cirrhosis. You may also need medicine to treat any health problems caused by cirrhosis.
- Antiviral medicine may be needed if your cirrhosis is caused by hepatitis. Antiviral medicine may prevent or decrease swelling and damage to your liver.
- Blood pressure medicine is used to treat high blood pressure in the portal vein (the vein that goes to your liver).
- Diuretics decrease extra fluid that collects in a part of your body, such as your legs and abdomen. Diuretics can also decrease your blood pressure. You will urinate more often when you take this medicine.
- Antibiotics help prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Do not drink alcohol:
Alcohol will cause more damage to your liver.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause blood vessel and lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
- Reach or maintain a healthy weight. You may develop fatty liver disease if you are overweight. Ask your healthcare provider for a healthy weight for you. He can help you create a safe weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Limit sodium (salt). You may need to decrease the amount of sodium you eat if you have swelling caused by fluid buildup. Sodium is found in table salt and salty foods such as canned foods, frozen foods, and potato chips.
- Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk. Liquids can help your liver work better.
- Ask about vaccines. You may have a hard time fighting infection because of cirrhosis. Vaccines help protect you against viruses that can cause diseases such as the flu or hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is caused by a virus that leads to inflammation of the liver. You may need a hepatitis A or B vaccine. You may also need a pneumonia vaccine. Always get a flu vaccine each year as soon as it becomes available.
- Ask about medicines. Some medicines can harm your liver. Acetaminophen is an example. Talk to your healthcare provider about all your medicines. Do not take any over-the-counter medicine or herbal supplements until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.