Advertisement

The Health Complications of Hepatitis C

The Health Complications of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C increases your risk of these serious health conditions.

Hepatitis C, a condition caused by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood, is characterized by inflammation of the liver. There are two stages of the disease: acute, or short term, and chronic, which means life-long. Both stages of hep C may be asymptomatic in some people. Others living with the condition can experience a wide range of symptoms, from minor to severe, or even life threatening.

Complications of acute hepatitis C
About 70 to 80 percent of people with acute hepatitis C don’t have any symptoms, but some may experience the following in the six to seven weeks (or up to two to six months) after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice

Between 15 and 25 percent of acute hepatitis C infections do not require treatment and go away on their own. However, the remainder become chronic after six months.

Complications of chronic hepatitis C
Many chronic cases do not express symptoms, so those living with the disease are often unaware they’re carriers and do not receive proper treatment. Long-term infections can result in more severe health complications, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer and even death. Hepatitis C is the most common cause of cirrhosis, or severe scarring of the liver. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of every 100 people infected with hepatitis C:

  • 75 to 85 will develop chronic hepatitis C
  • Of those, 60 to 70 will develop chronic liver disease
  • Five to 20 will develop cirrhosis of the liver
  • One to five will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer

In addition to liver damage, studies have shown that chronic hepatitis C is associated with a higher risk of developing insulin resistance, as well as types 1 and 2 diabetes. Why? The infection that could cause autoimmune changes that increase the risk of type 1 diabetes; chronic hep C may also make it difficult for cells to absorb glucose, leading to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Hep C screening is recommended for all people ages 18 to 79 years by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

What you can do
Both acute and chronic hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medications, and adopting good habits can keep the liver healthy and functioning properly. Those living with hepatitis C should avoid drinking and be careful when taking prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or supplements, as they can cause further liver damage. Always check with your doctor before taking any new medications. Maintaining a healthy diet, rich in whole grains, fruits and veggies, and low in sugar and sodium, can provide the body with nutrients to help fight off hep C-related fatigue and other comorbidities.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

more from this guide

Your Hepatitis C Treatment Options Your Hepatitis C Treatment Options

Today's treatments can help prevent liver damage, liver cancer and even cure the infection for many people. Your doctor will help you choose a tre...

Read More
Staying Well with Hep C Staying Well with Hep C

Medications can treat hepatitis C, but there are other things you should do to stay healthy. Knowing how the disease might change your life—and ...

Read More
What You Need to Know About Cirrhosis What You Need to Know About Cirrhosis

Get the must-know facts on the degenerative liver condition.

Read More
5 Things That Make Hepatitis C Worse 5 Things That Make Hepatitis C Worse

Hep C can be treated, but these factors can cause more damage to your liver.

Read More