Viral Hepatitis

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FAQ: If I have cirrhosis, is there anything I can do to reverse it?

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.