Hepatitis C (cont.)
In this Article
- Hepatitis C infection (HCV, hep C) facts
- What is hepatitis C infection?
- What are the symptoms of hepatitis C infection?
- How is hepatitis C spread, and is it contagious?
- What conditions beyond the liver are associated with hepatitis C infection?
- Who is at high risk and should be tested for hepatitis C infection?
- What is the usual progression of chronic hepatitis C infection?
- How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for hepatitis C infection?
- Newer drugs and therapeutic medications for hepatitis C
- Who should receive antiviral therapy for hepatitis C virus infection?
- Who should not receive treatment with antiviral therapy?
- How effective is hepatitis C treatment?
- What are the goals of therapy for hepatitis C infection?
- What are the side effects of treatment for hepatitis C infection?
- Hepatitis C and liver transplantation
- How is monitoring done before, during and after treatment?
- Can hepatitis C be prevented?
- What is the current research and what is in the future for hepatitis C?
- Hepatitis C FAQs
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C infection?
About 75% of people have no symptoms when they first acquire hepatitis C infection. The remaining 25% may complain of:
- loss of appetite,
- muscle aches, or
Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) is rare at this early stage of infection.
Over time, people with chronic infection may begin to experience the effects of the persistent inflammation of the liver caused by the immune reaction to the virus. Blood tests may show elevated levels of liver enzymes, a sign of liver damage, which is often the first suggestion that the infection may be present. Patients may become easily fatigued or complain of nonspecific symptoms.
As cirrhosis develops, symptoms increase and may include:
- loss of appetite,
- weight loss,
- breast enlargement in men (gynecomastia),
- a rash on the palms,
- difficulty with the clotting of blood, and
- spider-like blood vessels on the skin.
In patients with advanced cirrhosis, the liver begins to fail. This is a life-threatening problem. Confusion and even coma (encephalopathy) may result from the inability of the liver to process certain toxic substances.
Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension) may cause fluid to build up in the abdominal cavity (ascites) and result in engorged veins in the swallowing tube (esophageal varices) that tear easily and can bleed suddenly and massively. Portal hypertension also can cause kidney failure or an enlarged spleen resulting in a decrease of red blood cells (anemia), or the development of low platelets (thrombocytopenia), which can promote bleeding.
In advanced cirrhosis, liver failure causes decreased production of clotting factors. Patients with advanced cirrhosis often develop jaundice because the damaged liver is unable to eliminate a yellow compound, called bilirubin that is formed from the hemoglobin of old red blood cells.
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