Portal Hypertension: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Risk Factors

Portal hypertensionPortal hypertension is high blood pressure in the portal venous system.

These are the veins that come from the stomach, intestines, spleen, and pancreas, and they merge into the portal vein that further branches out into smaller vessels and extends to the liver.


If the vessels in the liver become blocked, this can contribute to liver damage and interrupted blood flow. As a result, the pressure builds up in the portal venous system.

Causes of Portal Hypertension

The main cause of portal hypertension is the obstruction in the vessels that connect to the liver. This can result from cirrhosis of the liver and the scar tissue that forms in cirrhosis to heal the liver. But instead of healing, this scar tissue blocks these vessels, reducing blood flow and increasing pressure.

Other causes of portal hypertension include blood clots, a parasitic infection, and focal nodular hyperplasia, which is a disease commonly seen in HIV patients.

Some other common causes of portal hypertension are alcohol abuse, hepatitis B and C, fatty liver, cystic fibrosis, and the build-up of excess iron known as hemochromatosis.

In some cases of portal hypertension, the cause is never found.

Signs and Symptoms of Portal Hypertension

Signs and symptoms of portal hypertension include gastrointestinal bleeding, which is evident in tarry or bloody stool; ascites; confusion or forgetfulness due to poor liver function, and reduced levels of platelets or white blood cells. Other symptoms associated with portal hypertension include enlarged veins, enlargement of the spleen, anemia, and vomiting blood.

Diagnosing and Treating Portal Hypertension

Portal hypertension is diagnosed normally after a complication has already occurred. Your doctor may perform a blood test, CT scan, X-ray, MRI, or an endoscopy to confirm the presence of portal hypertension.

To treat this condition, your doctor will often recommend that you avoid agents that can damage the liver such as alcohol, acetaminophen, and excess consumption of salt and protein.

You may also be prescribed medications like beta-blockers and nitroglycerin, while an endoscopy procedure may be needed to tie off enlarged veins in the esophagus that can lead to life-threatening bleeding.

If portal hypertension progresses enough, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Risk Factors of Portal Hypertension

There are several risk factors for portal hypertension. As cirrhosis is one of the main causes of portal hypertension, those at an increased risk for liver disease also risk hypertension. People who have a long history of alcohol abuse have a higher risk of cirrhosis.

Hepatitis is also the main risk factor for portal hypertension. Hepatitis is more prevalent among those who use needles to inject drugs, those who have received unsanitary tattoos or piercings, or people who have had unprotected sex with many partners. Hepatitis can also be passed down from mother to child, or it could be spread through blood transfusions.

How Do You Get Rid of Portal Hypertension Naturally?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way to helping with portal hypertension naturally. Consuming a healthy diet should be the first change to make if you have been diagnosed with portal hypertension.

A diet high in fruits and vegetables with limited meat consumption is suggested. All processed foods that are high in sodium and sugar should be avoided. Sodium levels must be severely restricted to help reduce fluid retention.

Limiting alcohol consumption is also part of a healthy diet. Women should have no more than one drink per day for women and no more than 2 per day for men.


By exercising daily and following a healthy plan, you will look better and feel better. Research suggests that getting at least 20 minutes of physical activity a day can significantly improve many health conditions, including portal hypertension.

Start slowly with exercises that you’re comfortable with, such as walking, swimming, jogging, or bike riding. Slowly increase intensity as time goes to build up strength and endurance.

Cutting out smoking is also essential for a healthy body and will help to reduce symptoms of portal hypertension. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise or diet plans, and be sure to ask them for healthy options for cutting out smoking. By adjusting a few easy lifestyle changes, symptoms of portal hypertension can be minimized.



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