As a bloodborne virus, the causes symptoms throughout the body, but certain symptoms affect the liver directly. Chronic hepatitis C infection damages the liver cells, causing inflammation. The inflammation can lead to scarring (fibrosis) and eventually a condition called HCV cirrhosis.
You may have heard of cirrhosis as a symptom of viral hepatitis, and cirrhosis is a serious complication of HCV infection. In fact, it's the primary reason many people with hepatitis C virus eventually need a liver transplant. But what exactly is cirrhosis?
At , we want our patients to be as informed as possible about their condition so they can get tested and begin as soon as possible. Early detection of hepatitis c infection is critical, as is knowledge about the progression of the disease involving conditions like cirrhosis.
Here are some vital things for people to know about cirrhosis, its relation to HCV, and the treatment options available:
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is a late stage of liver damage that's characterized by the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) throughout the organ. The scarring caused by cirrhosis can lead to a loss of liver function.
The liver is a vital organ, and it performs many important functions in the body, including filtering toxins from the blood and producing bile to help with digestion. When liver cells are damaged, they're replaced by scar tissue. The healthy liver cells are gradually replaced by non-functioning scar tissue, which leads to liver inflammation and eventually a loss of liver function.
Cirrhosis is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. There are two stages of cirrhosis to be aware of:
- Compensated cirrhosis: This is the early stage of cirrhosis, and it's characterized by mild symptoms. The liver is still able to perform its functions, but the scarring caused by cirrhosis can lead to a loss of liver function over time.
- Decompensated cirrhosis: This is the more advanced cirrhosis, and it occurs when the liver can no longer perform its functions properly. This can lead to a number of complications, including ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen), bleeding disorders, kidney failure, and hepatic encephalopathy (a condition that affects brain function).
How Does One Develop Cirrhosis?
There are a number of different chronic liver disease conditions that can lead to cirrhosis, including viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and alcohol abuse. However, the most common cause of cirrhosis is chronic hepatitis C infection.
Chronic hepatitis C infection damages the liver cells, causing inflammation. The inflammation can lead to scarring (fibrosis) and eventually a condition called HCV cirrhosis.
What Are the Signs of Cirrhosis?
Patients with cirrhosis may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, patients may begin to experience a number of different symptoms, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Spider-like blood vessels on the skin
- Impotence or decreased sex drive in men
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to see a doctor so they can determine if you have cirrhosis.
How Do You Know if You Have Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis can be diagnosed through a number of different tests, including blood tests, imaging tests, and liver biopsies.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to check for signs of liver damage, including elevated liver enzymes.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as ultrasound and CT scans, can be used to check for signs of liver damage.
- Liver biopsy: A liver biopsy is the most accurate way to diagnose cirrhosis. During a liver biopsy, a small sample of liver tissue is removed and examined for signs of damage
What Are the Complications of Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is a serious condition that can lead to a number of complications. The scarring caused by cirrhosis can lead to obstruction of the blood flow through the liver, and this can lead to high blood pressure in the veins (portal hypertension). Portal hypertension can lead to a number of complications, including ascites, bleeding disorders, and hepatic encephalopathy.
Cirrhosis can also lead to liver failure. Liver failure occurs during end-stage liver disease when the liver can no longer perform its functions properly. Advanced liver disease can be a life-threatening condition that requires hospitalization.
Patients with cirrhosis are also at an increased risk of developing liver cancer.
Can Cirrhosis Be Reversed?
Cirrhosis is a progressive condition that gets worse over time, so it is not reversible. However, the progression of liver failure in cirrhotic patients can be slowed down with treatment.
Treatment for cirrhosis typically focuses on managing the underlying cause of the disease and preventing complications. For example, patients with viral hepatitis should be treated with antiviral medications. Patients with fatty liver disease should be treated with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise. And patients with alcohol abuse should be treated with abstinence from alcohol.
For some patients, a liver transplant becomes necessary. A liver transplant is the only cure for end-stage liver disease.
If you have cirrhosis, it's important to see a doctor regularly so they can monitor your condition and provide the appropriate treatment. The earlier cirrhosis is diagnosed, the better the chances are of slowing down its progression.
Living With Cirrhosis After Treating Hepatitis
If you're in treatment for hepatitis C, you may also be facing a diagnosis of cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a serious and irreversible complication of hepatitis C, but it's important to remember that it's treatable.
There are a number of different available, and the vast majority of patients can be cured with hepatitis C treatment. If you're able to achieve a sustained virologic response (SVR) after your treatment duration, that means the hepatitis C virus infection is no longer detectable in your blood, and that the virus is no longer damaging your liver.
However, even if you're able to achieve an SVR with hep c medications, you may still have some degree of liver damage. In order to manage your cirrhosis, you'll need to see a doctor regularly so they can monitor your condition and provide the appropriate treatment.
You'll also need to make some lifestyle changes in order to manage your cirrhosis. These changes may include quitting smoking, losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol.
Making these lifestyle changes can be difficult, but it's important to remember that they're necessary in order to manage your cirrhosis and prevent further liver damage.
Get Started With Hepatitis C Treatment Online
The most important thing to remember if you're struggling with cirrhosis is that the sooner you stop the condition's progress, the better your outcome will be. That's why it's so important to get tested for hep c and start your treatment as soon as possible.
If you've received a positive diagnosis of hepatitis c in Pennsylvania or Ohio, can help you get started with hepatitis C treatment online from the comfort of your own home. We'll connect you with a real, competent hep c specialist who can help you choose the right treatment for your individual needs.