Cirrhosis: My husband, age 80, has had... - British Liver Trust

British Liver Trust

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My husband, age 80, has had heart problems for 30 years following his 1st & 2nd by pass. He has always been a heavy drinker. Last year he was told to stop as blood tests had shown his liver was compromised. He was in hospital for 15 days in January after collapsing, again he was warned about his heavy drinking, He is now showing signs of cirrhosis, weight loss, diarrhoea, no appetite & stomach pains.

He had an endoscopy last week & is having a CT scan on Thursday. What treatment can be given, he will not stop his bottle of wine & a couple of whiskys a day habit?

I am really fed up with him, no sympathy left.

11 Replies

if he stops drinking there may be enough liver cells still intact that he can eke out a natural lifespan or enough recovery and regeneration of the liver to enable the same.

If he doesn't stop drinking immediately then he'll end up with end stage liver disease and die fairly painfully and horribly as all the chemical reactions in his body which depend on liver processing (several hundred) go haywire.

It's not quick but it is horrible.

Very sorry for your situation. There is no other treatment for end stage liver disease although they'll try to deal with the complications.

Anya74 in reply to MisterX

He is 80, he has been a heavy drinker for at least 35 years, before that moderate & binge. I am 74, I will not be able to nurse him should he need lifting, I have chronic arthritis. I have no family & am not sure where to turn for advice. Fortunately I can afford to pay for help, but where & when. He won't stop drinking, I told him that I didn't think he had cancer, his reply was, no, I drink too much.

Bolly in reply to Anya74

Is he still fit and well enough to go to the shops/pub where the alcohol is? If he is, then it doesnt sound as though you need to step in or get carers in to help him yet. If he is not well enough to go out, how is he getting access to alcohol.

Re when to ask for help, I would say the time to do that is when you feel you cant cope any more. Most private care companies will provide care for anyone over 50, it doesnt concern them what the health condition is. If it gets to the point where he needs 'personal' care, lifting etc, then care companies either have the equipment needed or you can access Occupation Therapy through your GP who will assess needs and supply equipment to help around the house. It can take a while for this, so maybe start making enquiries via your GP now. However care companies can start work as soon as they have done a risk assessment which can be arranged in a matter of days.

It will be the damage to his liver caused by alcohol that will kill him before cancer does.

Treatment for alcoholic liver disease requires the patient to stop drinking. Medics won't be keen to offer any treatment to a patient who won't help themselves. Sounds like you would benefit from having a good old moan on here to relieve your stress. sometimes even facing ones mortality doesn't help someone who has an addiction, I've cared for smokers dying from COPD attached to oxygen tanks still puffing on a fag 😕

Anya74 in reply to Bolly

He can't stop medication, he takes 24 pills a day for his heart condition. He will not, or can not stop drinking. It has been an ongoing problem throughout our 34 year marriage. He is 80, I am 74, I stopped drinking 16 years ago, I thought it would encourage him, he told me I was boring! I have no family & really don't know what to do. I have money, the house is mine, he just has his pension which goes on alcohol. I started councilling last week in desperation. We have only been in UK for 9 years so have no friends , scores of acquaintances.

Dear Anya,

This is such a difficult time for you... You are doing the right thing by seeking counselling... Without stopping the drinking - his liver wont cope for long... You must take care of yourself in all of this...

Prayers and thoughts go out to you...


Hi as everyone has said he needs to stop drinking, but no one can do it for him, he needs to want to. Hope he can decide this sooner rather than later.

Remember to take time to look after yourself as well.

Thoughts are with you xx

Unfortunately Anya if he has cirrohiss there is no cure to stop further damage to his liver the only thing he can do for himself now is to stop all alcohol immediately, doctors can only treat other problems that a cirrhotic liver gives us, I do feel sorry for you let us know how things go. Annette !!

Glad to hear you are seeking support for yourself Anya. As pear said, you need to look after yourself. We are always here for when you want a good old moan!

Hi just signed up to this site, am looking for some reassurance for my sons decompensated liver disease. He collapsed at home last March and spent 7 weeks in hospital mostly in the critical care ward, he was given a TIPS procedure He is living independantly now and has given up alcohol completely. He appears to be doing well but suffers with swelling in legs and feet and walks with a stick. Lately he has had a strange smell from him difficult to describe but it is there constantly. Anyone can offer me any comments here please Jim's mum

MisterX in reply to 172943


Probably a good idea to start your own thread with this info so people can reply to you directly and so the original poster knows the replies refer to her issue - and for people who come by later and search for things.

But.... if he has decompensated cirrhosis then obviously it's very serious indeed and he can't drink - hopefully he's getting help to deal with that..

The swelling will be oedema - fluid retention - which also happens around the belly (and is called ascites). The best way of dealing with it is to reduce sodium intake to less than 2g per day - which is the same as about 5g of salt (salt is made up of sodium and chlorine). It takes a few weeks to get used to but the taste for salt is acquired when young so it is possible to adapt. He should keep his doctors informed though and be careful of going much less than the 2g of sodium / 5g of sodium chloride (salt).

The smell is a difficult one - it could be anything and it is part of the territory - could it possibly be ammonia? If it smells like ammonia then he should try and cut down on meat - which converts to ammonia. Additionally if he is smelling of ammonia then he may have ammonia in his bloodstream which will affect his brain - the way to deal with that is to ask the doctors to prescribe medication to ensure he passes stools several times a day - which keeps all the waste from being "reabsorbed" through the gut.

Alternatively it could just be that his immune system is a bit low and he has some skin bacteria which are dominating a bit at the moment.

If he's stopped drinking he may start to get some liver function back - the liver is a remarkable organ - and although decompensated disease is very serious it does sometimes happen - he should try his very best to increase his chances.

Very best wishes - It must be utterly horrible for you and I and everyone here will feel very deeply for you. Do keep asking questions if you have them or even if you just want to let off steam - this is a good place for that.

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