Liver Hepatitis C Related Conditions

The hepatitis C virus attacks the liver, which causes inflammation. Persistent inflammation due to chronic hepatitis C infection can lead to dangerous complications of hepatitis C, including related medical conditions like cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

In addition, hepatitis C can co-occur with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as transmission routes are often the same. Co-infection can complicate treatment for both HIV and hepatitis C.

The Danger of Undiagnosed Chronic Hepatitis C

In many cases, the hepatitis C virus can remain in the body for years or decades without symptoms. Even when early symptoms do develop, they often resemble those of the flu and may be misdiagnosed or remain unreported to a doctor.

When you have undiagnosed chronic hepatitis C, your liver may be sustaining damage without your knowledge, which can cause permanent damage to your liver.

Complications of Hepatitis C: Cirrhosis

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (2008), hepatitis C is a leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver.

Cirrhosis is a disease characterized by chronic liver inflammation caused by recurrent injury. This inflammation and damage causes healthy liver tissue to be replaced by scar tissue. Cirrhosis reduces the liver’s ability to regulate metabolism and waste removal, which can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. Both medical conditions may require drastic treatment, including liver transplant.

Complications of Hepatitis C: Liver Cancer

Of those who develop cirrhosis as a result of long-term hepatitis C infection, some go on to develop further damage in the form of primary liver cancer, or “hepatocellular carcinoma.”

Liver cancer occurs when abnormal cells multiply to form a tumor in the liver. Liver cancer can be treated with surgical removal, chemotherapy and radiation, or liver transplant. Early detection of liver cancer results in the most promising prognosis. Since suffering from hepatitis C increases your risk of developing liver cancer, understanding early symptoms is crucial for the most effective treatment.

Related Medical Conditions: Hepatitis C and HIV

Hepatitis C is transmitted through contaminated blood and passed from one person to another when they share needles during intravenous (IV) drug use. This is also a common route of transmission for HIV, so IV drug users run the risk of HIV and hepatitis C co-infection.

People infected with both HIV and hepatitis C are more likely to develop cirrhosis than those with only hepatitis C. In addition, liver damage — including cirrhosis and liver cancer — progresses more quickly in HIV-positive individuals with hepatitis C.

Resources

Liver Foundation. (2010). Liver cancer. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/livercancer/.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2008). Cirrhosis. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis/.

Providence Health and Services. (n.d.). FAQ: The link between hepatitis C and liver cancer. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.providence.org/oregon/health_resource_centers/cancer/faq.htm.

Swan, T. (2006). Care and treatment for hepatitis C and HIV co-infection. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from http://www.ftp.hrsa.gov/hab/coinfect.pdf.