Although not all cases of cirrhosis are preventable, the
following measures can greatly reduce your risk:
Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
Alcohol is a toxin that must be filtered by your liver. In the
process, liver cells become damaged. Unfortunately, you may not
recognize that you have a problem with alcohol before serious liver
damage has occurred. Knowing and recognizing a family history of
alcoholism for you or others is an important step in seeking
Protect yourself from hepatitis C.
Because there's no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, the only way to
protect yourself is to avoid exposure to the virus. If you aren't
absolutely certain of the health status of a sexual partner, use a
new condom every time you have sex. Don't use nasal cocaine and
avoid sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia. Contaminated drug
paraphernalia is responsible for about half of all new cases of
hepatitis C. See your doctor if you have or have had hepatitis C or
think you may have been exposed to the virus.
Protect yourself from hepatitis B.
A vaccine for hepatitis B has been available since 1981. Although
vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others, these
measures can also keep you safe: Know the health status of every
sexual partner. If you don't know, use a new condom every time you
have sex. And if you use needles to inject drugs, be sure they're
sterile and don't share them.
Although the damage from cirrhosis is irreversible, the
disease often progresses slowly, and you can take steps to reduce
further liver damage:
This is the single most important measure you can take to help
protect your liver and reduce the risk or severity of complications.
Avoiding alcohol is crucial, no matter what type of cirrhosis you
Because your damaged liver isn't able to detoxify and eliminate
drugs from your system, discuss all medications, including
nonprescription drugs, with your doctor. Be especially careful not
to combine the pain reliever acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or any
other analgesic with alcohol, even if you take only the recommended
daily amount of the drug.
Avoid people who are sick.
When your liver is damaged, you can't fight off infections as easily
as healthy people. Do everything that's reasonable to avoid getting
sick. Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, influenza and
Eat a healthy diet.
Because cirrhosis can cause a number of nutritional deficiencies
along with weight loss, it's especially important to obtain at least
2,000 to 3,000 calories from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains
and small amounts of protein every day. These foods are high in
nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E. Cirrhosis tends to deplete
these important vitamins. Your doctor may also prescribe
supplemental vitamins K, A and D.
Because the sodium in salt causes your body to retain water, it can
contribute to or increase fluid buildup in your legs and abdomen. In
addition to not adding salt to your food, it's best to avoid
high-sodium prepared foods, such as canned soups and cold cuts, and
condiments such as soy sauce, catsup and mayonnaise. Lemon juice and
herbs make good salt substitutes.
Avoid raw shellfish.
Uncooked oysters, clams and other shellfish may contain the
bacterium vibrio vulnificus, which can be extremely dangerous
for people with cirrhosis. It's best to avoid shellfish altogether,
but if you do eat them, be sure they're thoroughly cooked.
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