Is cirrhosis reversible?

My name is Omar Kadir, 62 y/o living in Malaysian Borneo. I have been recently diagnosed as suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. I am a non-drinker and non-smoker all my life. In the three months of being told that I am suffering from this serious liver condition, I have been reading a lot mostly online to know more about cirrhosis and one important fact about cirrhosis of the liver that doctors I have seen told me and also what I read online is that cirrhosis is irreversible. This is like being condemned to the Death Row and it is only a question of when your time is up to be called up to meet your Maker! Not a comforting thought at all and I am still trying to reconcile with this new episode of my life or whatever is left of it.

Maybe this is a typical reaction how most patients with cirrhosis of the liver react to when told they have the disease. If the medical profession insists that cirrhosis is reversible, are they merely following their SOP and protocols of their profession or is it a case of not wanting to think outside the box? I have read about milk thistle (silymarin or Silybum marianum Gaertn) and dandelion as supplementary or alternative medicines that are beneficial for sufferers of cirrhosis of the liver. But none of the doctors or liver experts would recommend these - "No Supplements" is their firm reaction when I raised the subject!

I have also read about a BBC report in 2006 on work done by a team of researchers at University of Newcastle UK on Sulfasalazine, a drug normally used to treat arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, as having the potential to reverse the scarring associated with cirrhosis of the liver. The study by the Newcastle team of Professor Derek Mann, Professor Chris Day, Professor David Jones et al, concluded that sulfasalazine has the potential to provide an alternative to liver transplant especially to heavy drinkers suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

It would be greatly appreciated if any member or members of this group can update or share information of these alternative approaches to tackle cirrhosis of the liver - I would love to hear from someone who may have personal experience in using sulfasalazine for their cirrhosis problem or even from doctors or researchers who may have use or work on the "reversible" potential of sulfasalazine on cirrhosis patients.

Thank you & best regards from Malaysian Borneo.

Omar Kadir

8 Replies

  • Correction: In the 2nd para, I meant " If the medical profession insists that cirrhosis is IRREVERSIBLE ........

  • You can benefit from removing the cause of your cirrhosis, some say the liver will improve, but mostly the scarring is there for life, as far as I understand it fibrosis can reverse to some degree.

  • To start having cirrhosis is not like being condemned to death row. There are many people with cirrhosis that live long and healthy lifes so please do not think like that. As ralph2014 said the first thing you need to do is to find the cause of the damage and to treat it to prevent/limit any further damage. As for alternative medicines, I don't think it would make any difference to your cirrhosis, its wise to remember that some of these alternatives contain toxins and could be bad for someone with liver disease. They do believe that some of the scarring can heal if you treat the cause, but generally cirrhosis can't be reversed. The main thing is to find the cause and get appropriate treatment and try to keep a positive attitude. All the best.

  • I do know that your liver can and will heal if you take careful care of yourself. My doc said that my liver had a meld of 10, when I first got sick. It is now at a 6. My liver has made new cells and they have surrounded the scaring. I don't know how to write in medical terms, I do know I'm healthier than I've ever been in My Life. I was very sick, and had all the systems I've read about here. I don't know if I can tell here what I've done for my own health, but I would like to. It may not help everyone, but I do know I improved. I work out at a gym 4 days a week. I look and feel better than I ever have . I am 63 years old and found out about my condition 4 years ago.

  • Have the medics given you an explanation for the cirrhosis? There are some conditions, such as auto-immune conditions of the liver, that cause cirrhosis, but the spread is often very slow. Have they mentioned anything about other explanations/conditions? There are some medications that help with certain of these conditions, so you need to find out more about why they think this has happened and what the precise diagnosis is - other than just being told 'cirrhosis'.

    Otherwise, as nbee says above, the rate of spread can often be very slow, so you don't need to see it as a death sentence. What is important is to find out all you can about your exact condition, and also what you can do by way of diet, exercise and also just staying fit, and positive and unstressed. Try to keep living a good, full life and treat yourself as much as possible, Stress and worrying about the condition is the worst thing, so take care of yourself.

    Have a close look at all the information on the 'British Liver Trust' site (link at top of this page), as they have guides to most of the different liver conditions, and will give advice on diet etc.

    Take care.

  • Hello Omar,

    I'll give you a quick summary - I usually go on an on :) (Actually this turned out to be wrong)

    It all depends. There are a number of conditions which cause inflammation of the liver. Inflammation of the liver is called hepatitis and hepatitis can be caused by a number of things, ranging from drug overdoses, alcohol consumption, autoimmune disease and Hepatitis viruses (which are so called because they give you inflammation (hepatitis).

    If the inflammation goes on long enough (chronic) or is intense enough (acute) then the inflamed liver tissue turns to scar tissue. This process of scarring is called fibrosis. As more and more of the liver turns to scar tissue the fibrosis is said to have increased in stage. There are a number of measures of which stage of fibrosis the liver has reached. The final stage of fibrosis is called cirrhosis - where the entire liver is made up of islands of liver cells surrounded by bands of scar tissue, although sometimes people call the process of fibrosis "cirrhosis" regardless of stage.

    If the cause of liver inflammation can be stopped or reduced below a level of the liver's natural ability to repair and regenerate cells then usually the liver is able to reverse the damage. In any event it is possible to live normally with only a fraction of your liver working. Do separate in your mind the inflammation and its cause from the fibrosis and its level of severity.

    Cirrhosis was usually considered irreversible, however there is a distinction between "compensated" cirrhosis - where your liver roughly manages to do its job without showing complications, and "decompensated" cirrhosis where your liver cannot cope and you are suffering some of the common complications (look these up) - which are ascites, oedema, portal hypertension, jaundice, hepatic encephalopathy.

    Recent studies indicate that if the cause of liver inflammation is removed or sufficiently reduced the liver may recover even from cirrhosis if at the earliest stages. Alternatively the liver may carry long enough to enable a productive lifespan. Should the liver begin to fail in its function - i.e. it is decompensated and measures to cope with the complications are insufficient then a liver transplant is a possible way out.

    So it really depends on the details.

    What caused the cirrhosis?

    How is it being treated?

    Is further liver damage being prevented?

    What are your current test results?

    Do you have any of the major complications?

    Many people take milk thistle, its efficacy in the case of cirrhosis is uncertain. I don't take it myself.

    There are many studies ongoing regarding anti-fibrotic drugs but I'm not aware of any as yet which have been passed for general use - and these drugs are being tested in respect of specific conditions.

    Hope that's a reasonable starting point - sorry it wasn't short as promised.

    Best regards.

    PS - Right now research the best healthiest diet you can and start taking moderate exercise.


    Milk Thistle (recommended by my gastro) improved my liver function so much that my enzymes returned to normal. I was a social drinker and simultaneously stopped all alcohol. Not even a glass of wine. However, MT cannot heal the cirrhosis.

    Finding the source of of the cirrhosis is the priority. In my case it turned out to be hep c. In May of this year i was started on Harvoni (new med). The results are nothing short of a miracle. I am now virus undetected.

    Like you, I too felt the death sentence but now i am hopeful and thankful for every day of my life. Hope something in my story helps you. Be well

  • The best way to stop or reverse cirrhosis is to first remove the cause. As others have said there are many causes (at least 20) of cirrhosis. Have you had a liver biopsy to diagnose the cause via the histology of your liver. Please don't try alternative remedies, or any 'cure' until the doctors have diagnosed the cause.

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