The liver damage done by cirrhosis generally can't be undone. But if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the cause is treated, further damage can be limited and, rarely, reversed.
Myth: I might have cirrhosis, but the liver will regenerate and heal itself naturally. Fact: The liver is a highly regenerative organ but only if it's still healthy enough to do so and doesn't have extensive scar tissue. Once cirrhosis is present, your liver's regeneration becomes very limited.
Cirrhosis cannot usually be cured, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and any complications, and stop the condition getting worse.
Healing can begin as early as a few days to weeks after you stop drinking, but if the damage is severe, healing can take several months. In some cases, “if the damage to the liver has been long-term, it may not be reversible,” warns Dr. Stein.
Cirrhosis has become irreversible. Diagnosed at stage 3, the 1-year survival rate is 80%. It's during stage 3 that a liver transplant may be recommended. There's always a risk a person's body will reject the transplant, but if accepted, 80% of transplant patients survive more than 5 years past their operation.
The damage caused by cirrhosis can't be reversed and can eventually become so extensive that your liver stops functioning. This is called liver failure. Cirrhosis can be fatal if the liver fails. However, it usually takes years for the condition to reach this stage and treatment can help slow its progression.
Liver transplant surgery
In advanced cases of cirrhosis, when the liver ceases to function, a liver transplant may be the only treatment option. A liver transplant is a procedure to replace your liver with a healthy liver from a deceased donor or with part of a liver from a living donor.
If you have a more serious form of ARLD – alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis – life-long abstinence is recommended. This is because stopping drinking is the only way to prevent your liver damage getting worse and potentially stop you dying of liver disease.
There's no cure for cirrhosis at the moment. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and any complications and slow its progression. Treating the problem that led to cirrhosis (for example, using anti-viral medicines to treat hepatitis C) can stop cirrhosis getting worse.
It takes upwards of ten years for alcohol-related liver disease to progress from fatty liver through fibrosis to cirrhosis to acute on chronic liver failure. This process is silent and symptom free and can easily be missed in primary care, usually presenting with advanced cirrhosis.
Stage 3: Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis refers to severe, irreversible scarring of the liver.
As the liver attempts to repair itself, after alcohol abuse, scar tissue forms. Over time, this scarring within the liver can lead to decreased liver function. Once the liver has been damaged by cirrhosis, this damage cannot be undone. Any use of alcohol will only damage the liver further.
Heavy drinkers and alcoholics may progress from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis to cirrhosis, and it is estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of alcoholics will develop cirrhosis.
"Hard liquor contains more alcohol than beer or wine, making it more dangerous for your liver," continues Coleman. "A single shot of 80-proof hard liquor contains about 15 grams of alcohol and most shots contain even more alcohol than this." Another alcoholic beverage also takes a considerable toll on your liver.
Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a disease in which liver cells become damaged and are replaced by scar tissue. People with cirrhosis have an increased risk of liver cancer. Most (but not all) people who develop liver cancer already have some evidence of cirrhosis.
Although the overall leading cause of death in patients with cirrhosis is liver-related, the most common causes of mortality in patients with NAFLD cirrhosis is non-hepatic malignancy, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes.
Do all alcoholics get alcoholic hepatitis and eventually cirrhosis? No. Some alcoholics may suffer seriously from the many physical and psychological symptoms of alcoholism, but escape serious liver damage. Alcoholic cirrhosis is found among alcoholics about 10 to 25 percent of the time.
But how much alcohol does it take to cause liver cirrhosis? For cirrhosis to develop in men, a person must drink more than about 3 ounces of alcohol a day for more than 10 years. These 3 ounces include drinking 6 cans of beer, 5 glasses of wine, or 6 shots of liquor.
Treatment for ARLD involves stopping drinking alcohol. This is known as abstinence, which can be vital depending on what stage the condition is at. If you have fatty liver disease, the damage may be reversed if you abstain from alcohol for a period of time (this could be months or years).
Usually the damage cannot be reversed. Between 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis typically after 10 or more years of drinking.
Avoidance of Alcohol for Patients with Cirrhosis Cirrhosis
Patients with cirrhosis, regardless of etiology, should not drink any alcohol at all.
Mild cirrhosis may not cause any symptoms at all. Symptoms may include: Fluid buildup in the belly (ascites) Vomiting blood, often from bleeding in the blood vessels in the food pipe (esophagus)
Most people with cirrhosis that's found in its early stage can live healthy lives. If you are obese or have diabetes, losing weight and controlling your blood sugar can lessen damage caused by fatty liver disease.
Increased appetite: Digesting foods and nutrients can become easier as the liver healing continues. Usually, your appetite can improve as well. Improved blood work: Liver healing can lower toxin levels in your blood and improve liver function. You can see evidence of these improvements in your lab work.