for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If I have cirrhosis, is there anything I can do to reverse it?
Cirrhosis is generally not considered to be reversible. However, there are different degrees of cirrhosis. "Compensated" cirrhosis means that a patient has cirrhosis but no complications such as fluid in the abdomen (ascites), disorientation or confusion (hepatic encephalopathy), or bleeding in the stomach or esophagus (variceal bleeding). A patient is considered to have "decompensated" cirrhosis if any of these complications are present.
If you are in a compensated state of cirrhosis, there are ways you can delay progression to a decompensated state:
- If you routinely drink alcohol, stop drinking.
- If you are overweight or obese, lose weight and exercise more.
- If you have hepatitis C or hepatitis B and are eligible for treatment, get started on medications to try to clear the virus.
It is more difficult to go in the reverse direction--from a decompensated state to a compensated state.
- If you drink alcohol, stop completely and permanently. With time, you may reverse to a compensated state.
Medications to treat hepatitis C or hepatitis B are not considered safe for decompensated cirrhosis patients, and are usually not an option.