Understanding Your Risk for Liver Cirrhosis
Last updated: February 2022
Editors Note: Always talk to your doctors about your own risk factors and if you think you might be at risk for getting cirrhosis.
Having a risk factor for a certain health condition doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get it. It just means your chances of developing that condition are higher1.
Modifiable versus non-modifiable risks
In the medical world, we divide risk factors into two groups: modifiable and non-modifiable.
Non-modifiable risk factors are things you cannot change. For example, your age, race, ethnicity, and so on.
Non-modifiable risk factors for cirrhosis after a hepatitis C infection include age (being over 50 years old) and sex (male). Because these types of risk factors are things you can’t change, focusing on these can be frustrating and pointless.
Using your energy to focus on modifiable risk factors can help. Modifiable risk factors are things you can change to lower your chance of developing certain health problems.
What are some modifiable risk factors for cirrhosis?
Modifiable risk factors for cirrhosis if you’ve had hepatitis C can include:
Limiting Alcohol and Other Drugs
In general, there’s a connection between high alcohol use and liver disease2. Add hepatitis C into the mix, and heavy drinking can increase the speed of liver fibrosis (scarring, thickening of your liver tissues).
Damage can not only lead to cirrhosis but the risk of liver cancer and failure. Heavy drinking is considered 5 or more drinks a day.
Other drugs, like cannabis, can increase fibrosis and risk for cirrhosis as well and should be avoided2.
According to the CDC, the best way to protect your liver is to avoid drinking alcohol2. If you’re struggling to stop using alcohol, contact your provider or reach out to the national substance abuse helpline3.
Preventing Other Infections
Having other types of infections, like hepatitis B or HIV, with hepatitis C, can increase your risk for liver cirrhosis. One way to prevent infections is staying up-to-date on your vaccinations.
For example, hepatitis B can be prevented by a series of vaccine shots4. For more information on which vaccinations are right for you, talk with your provider.
Another way to prevent infections, like HIV, is to follow a few safety rules and explore prevention medication options5. Safe sex with a condom and never sharing needles are good places to start.
If you’re at higher risk for HIV, your provider might ask you to use a PreP medication to help prevent infection5.
Managing Other Health Conditions
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or obesity, your risk of cirrhosis with hepatitis C is higher6. Managing these conditions well through good health habits may help lower your risk.
Exercise is an example of a health routine that can have a positive impact on your liver health.
By knowing your risk factors, you might be able to lower your risk and get ahead of having cirrhosis of the liver.