Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Risk Factors Symptoms Evaluation fiberoptic procedures Treatment diet drugs questions for doctor specialist surgery Home Care liver disease diet taking control warning signs Prevention Outlook Complications Underlying Cause Anatomy

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Treatment

There is no cure for cirrhosis. Treatment focuses on the underlying cause. General treatment for cirrhosis includes the strict avoidance of alcohol, a liver disease diet, regular exercise, and vitamin supplements. The liver metabolizes, or breaks down, many medications. These medications must be used with caution in someone with cirrhosis.

A person with cirrhosis may progress to liver failure quickly, or may live many years without progressing to liver failure. In those who progress to liver failure, treatment focuses on managing the complications, such as itching, esophageal varices, hepatic encephalopathy, ascites, infections, and blood clotting disorders. Those who progress to severe liver failure may require liver transplant surgery.

Treatment for cirrhosis may include:


Medications used to treat the complications of cirrhosis include:

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Diet

It is important to follow a healthy diet if you have cirrhosis.

Liver Disease Diet
Malnutrition is a major problem for most cirrhotic patients. A special liver diet restricts total protein, is low in fat and high in carbohydrates. Protein is usually restricted to about 70 gm per day. Further protein restriction may be needed in severe cases. Adequate carbohydrates help the liver cells regenerate.

If ascites is present, sodium must be restricted to no more than 2 grams per day. In some cases, sodium blood levels can drop due to fluid retention. In this case, fluids should be restricted to less than 1 liter per day.

Other diet tips:

  • Eat quality fats: use virgin olive oil and other unsaturated, low-cholesterol fats
  • Eat enough dietary fiber: whole grains are best
  • Check with your doctor about supplementing your diet with B vitamins. Some people may benefit from these supplements.

Key Dietary Recommendations for Chronic Disease Prevention
NutrientRecommendation
Energy (calories)to maintain BMI < 25
Total fats< or = to 30% of total daily calories
Saturated fats< 7% of total daily calories
Polyunsaturated fats< 10% of total daily calories
Monounsaturated fats< 13% of total daily calories
Cholesterol< or = to 300 mg per day
Dietary fiber25-30 grams per day
Fiber type3:1 insoluble to soluble fiber
Sodium< or = to 1,500 mg per day
Calcium 9-24 yrs1,200-1,500 mg per day
Calcium 25-50 yrs1,000 mg per day
Calcium 51-65 yrs1,200 mg per day
Calcium >65 yrs1,500 mg per day
Vitamin D 9-50 yrs200 IU per day
Vitamin D 51-70 yrs400 IU per day
Vitamin D >70 yrs600 IU per day
Folic acid400 micrograms (ug) per day
Fruits & vegetables5-7 servings per day

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Drugs

Medications used to treat the complications of cirrhosis include:

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of cirrhosis.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • Do I need a special exercise program?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for complications?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat cirrhosis:

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Surgery

Surgical treatment of cirrhosis may include:

  • Surgery for esophageal varices:
    • Distal splenorenal shunt
    • Mesocaval shunts
    • Portocaval shunt
    • Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)
  • Liver transplant for cirrhosis

Continue to Alcoholic Cirrhosis Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Alcoholic Cirrhosis References
  1. Levitsky J, Mailliard ME. Diagnosis and therapy of alcoholic liver disease. Semin Liver Dis. 2004 Aug;24(3):233-47. [15349802]
  2. Tome S, Lucey MR. Review article: current management of alcoholic liver disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Apr 1;19(7):707-14. [15043511]
  3. Wakim-Fleming J, Mullen KD. Long-term management of alcoholic liver disease. Clin Liver Dis. 2005 Feb;9(1):135-49. [15763233]
  4. Walsh K, Alexander G. Alcoholic liver disease. Postgrad Med J. 2000 May;76(895):280-6. [1077528]
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