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Hepatitis C and cirrhosis: What’s the link?

The liver is a powerful organ that the hepatitis C virus can affect.

Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver are medical conditions that can damage and inflame the liver. Hepatitis C is a viral illness, while cirrhosis is scarring of the liver that can occur due to hepatitis C and other medical conditions.

Both conditions are individually harmful and together may make it more likely that a person will develop liver failure and liver cancer, potentially resulting in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Emerging treatments for hepatitis C may help to reduce the likelihood that hepatitis C-related liver cirrhosis will occur.

The link between hepatitis C and cirrhosis

Hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis, but cirrhosis cannot cause hepatitis C. This is because a person must have exposure to the virus to get hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is a virus that people contract when they come into contact with the blood of someone who has hepatitis C.

Transmission can occur through:

  • sharing needles
  • needlestick injury among healthcare workers
  • sexual intercourse
  • being born to a parent with hepatitis C

It is also possible to have hepatitis C for many years and be unaware of it.

When a person first contracts the virus, they usually experience mild illness, and the body may clear the virus completely. This is true in about 15 to 25 percent of people who contract the hepatitis C virus, according to the CDC. The remainder may experience a chronic infection.

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver, and the condition can be a side effect of chronic hepatitis C.

The following may also cause cirrhosis:

  • alcohol abuse or alcoholic liver disease
  • autoimmune hepatitis where the immune system attacks the liver
  • chronic heart failure
  • chronic hepatitis B, another type of viral hepatitis
  • inherited liver diseases
  • type 2 diabetes

The liver is vital to the body and is responsible for filtering and processing toxins and creating essential proteins. The liver cannot work as well if cirrhosis causes severe scarring, and it may eventually fail, which can be fatal.

Read on: Hepatitis C and cirrhosis: What's the link?

The health and medical information on our website is not intended to take the place of advice or treatment from health care professionals. It is also not intended to substitute for the users’ relationships with their own health care/pharmaceutical providers.

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