Complications from Untreated Hepatitis C

By

Amy Bernstein

Was this helpful? (7)
This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.
x

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
arm-with-blisters

About 80% of people who contract the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms during the acute phase. For some of them, this liver infection will clear up by itself within six months. But 75 to 85% of people with the virus develop chronic hepatitis C. For them, the untreated disease can lead to complications and even death.

Effects on the Liver

When hepatitis C remains in the body, it works slowly on the liver over time, leading to liver damage and possibly liver failure.

Because people with hepatitis C usually look and feel healthy, they can live with the illness for years or even decades without knowing it. This can lead to cirrhosis, or liver scarring, and liver cancer. In fact, hepatitis C is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer in the United States. About 15,000 people die from hepatitis C–related liver diseases each year.

Other Effects

In a small percentage of people, chronic infection with hepatitis C leads to health problems not related to the liver. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Fragile, blistering skin

  • Kidney disease

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Risk Factors for Hepatitis C

Unfortunately, many people who have hepatitis C don’t know it until their liver is already damaged. That’s why it’s important for people who have risk factors for hepatitis C to be tested.

Talk with your doctor about testing if you:

  • Are infected with HIV

  • Are on long-term hemodialysis treatment

  • Have had abnormal liver tests or liver disease

  • Have ever injected illicit drugs, even once

  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992

  • Were born between 1945 and 1965

  • Were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987

  • Work in health care or public safety and have been exposed to blood through a needle stick or sharp object injury

Key Takeaways

  • Because people with hepatitis C usually look and feel healthy, they can live with the virus for decades without knowing it. This can lead to cirrhosis, or liver scarring, and liver cancer.

  • In a small percentage of people, chronic infection with hepatitis C leads to other health problems such as diabetes; fragile, blistering skin; kidney disease; and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

  • Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have hepatitis C until their liver is already damaged. That’s why it’s important to get tested if you have risk factors for the virus.

Was this helpful? (7)
Medical Reviewers: Robert Williams, MD Last Review Date: Sep 8, 2015

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm
  2. Hepatitis C FAQs for Health Professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm
  3. Hepatitis C. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en

Your opinion matters!



Please fill out this short, 1-3 minute survey about Getting Help for Hepatitis C. Your answers are anonymous and will not be linked to you personally.

The survey will appear at the end of your visit.

Thank you!

A survey will be presented to you after you finish viewing our Getting Help for Hepatitis C content.

You Might Also Like

Share via Email

PREVIOUS ARTICLE:

Hepatitis C and Stomach Woes: What's the Connection?

NEXT ARTICLE:

Know The Signs: What Liver Disease Looks Like in Hepatitis C