for Veterans and the Public
Anything that damages the liver over many years causes the liver to form scar tissue. Fibrosis is the medical term for liver scarring. When scar tissue builds up and takes over most of the liver, this is a more serious problem called cirrhosis (pronounced "sir-o-sis"). Scar tissue cannot perform any of the jobs of normal liver cells, and this causes a person with cirrhosis to slowly become ill.
There is no way of predicting who is going to get cirrhosis. Cirrhosis does not happen overnight. Many people who have cirrhosis for 5 to 10 years or more do not show clear signs of illness. However, having the hepatitis C virus for a long time (such as 20 to 30 years) increases your risk of having cirrhosis.
Over time, you can become ill from cirrhosis. Symptoms that can develop include fatigue, difficulty thinking clearly, fluid in the abdomen, bleeding in the intestines, and poor blood clotting.
It is not clear who will develop cirrhosis or complications from hepatitis C, but how you take care of yourself and your liver plays an important role in how slowly (or how quickly) hepatitis C progresses.
You can help keep your liver healthy by eating well, losing weight if you are overweight, and avoiding substances that can harm your liver, such as alcohol and illegal drugs.
To learn more about these problems, read the Liver Complications tutorial.