for Veterans and the Public
Liver complications - Hepatitis C for Patients
HCV generally progresses slowly, over the course of 10 to 40 years. If your HCV is not treated, you could develop complications.
- When something attacks and damages the liver, liver cells are killed and scar tissue is formed. This scarring is called fibrosis, and it happens little by little over many years. When the enire liver is scarred, it shrinks and gets hard. This is called cirrhosis, and usually this damage cannot be undone.
- It can take up to 30 years for liver damage to turn in to cirrhosis. Early on, most people have no symptoms, but some can experience fatigue, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, severe itching or jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes).
- Liver cancer is a disease in which some of the cells in your liver begin to reproduce faster than they should. This can lead to liver masses called tumors. The medical term for the most common cancer that begins in the liver is hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC for short.
- People with cirrhosis are at increased risk of developing liver cancer.
- Experts recommend that persons at risk of liver cancer be tested regularly, even if they have no symptoms. Testing for the presence of a disease before there are any symptoms is called screening. People at risk of liver cancer must be screened with an ultrasound of the abdomen, every 6 months, for life. A blood test for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), which can be elevated in persons with liver cancer, can also be done every 6 months, in addition to the ultrasound.
- A liver transplant replaces a sick (referred to as cirrhotic) liver, or a liver with a tumor, with a healthy one from someone else.
- Patients are typically considered for transplant when the liver is working at roughly 10-20 percent of what is considered normal functioning.