We are all aware that the Hepatitis C virus can cause liver disease. This disease is called cirrhosis. What the disease means to a persons health is the real issue. The liver is a truly remarkable organ. Its main function in the body is to produce the bile that helps to digest a persons food. It also helps to rid the body of toxins.
When the liver is no longer able to fight the Hepatitis C and repair itself it will begin to falter. The liver becomes scarred and its ability to function diminishes. Nevertheless the damage does not happen quickly. It can take ten to twenty years of living with the Hepatitis C virus until cirrhosis is diagnosed and then it can be another ten to twenty years before the damage is so extreme it comes into the end stage where it is life threatening.
Cirrhosis is not always the end result of Hepatitis C. Only twenty five percent of those with the disease develop it. Cirrhosis of the liver is the ninth leading cause of death in the Untied States. Hepatitis C is the most common cause of cirrhosis followed closely by alcohol abuse. It can also be the end result of certain generic conditions, Hepatitis B, and a few other disorders and illnesses that can be dangerous.
There are two kinds of cirrhosis. One is called compensated cirrhosis and the other is decompensated cirrhosis. If the patient has compensated cirrhosis that means that despite the liver damage the organ is still able to perform most of the functions necessary with little or no accompanying symptoms of the disease felt by the patient.
This state can continue for years while the patient lives a relatively normal life. But the disease will progress at a pace that can change at any point in time so regular medical care is essential. This includes using the drug therapy available to attempt to slow down or hopefully stop the infection.
A decompensated liver is much worse. It means that the liver is badly damaged and that it cannot function the way it should. At this point the condition of the liver can be life threatening. The signs to look for include extreme tiredness, loss of appetite resulting in weight loss, nausea, bruising easily, bleeding, stomach pain and jaundice. If your skin appears yellow your liver function is very poor.
At this stage the complications can be life threatening. It can hasten kidney dysfunction as the kidneys attempt to compensate for the liver dysfunction. The damaged liver no longer is able to produce the clotting factor and so bleeding, even minor, and is harder to stop. The spleen enlarges, bone mass is lost and muscle waste begins. This can also affect hormone levels, mental awareness and cause an itching so intense it can be incapacitating. At this point the liver has reached the end state of the disease, its possible that cancer may be lurking, and the only answer is a liver transplant.