Hepatitis C is a viral disease that can have a devastating effect on a person’s liver. There are several types of hepatitis, but hepatitis C is among the most serious. This is due, in part, to the fact that hepatitis C causes permanent liver scarring. This scarring impairs the function of one’s liver and may lead to liver failure. Some people with hepatitis C even go on to develop liver cancer.
When a person initially develops hepatitis C, he is unlikely to notice any effects of the disease. This is due to the fact that a person may have this disease for many years before liver damage develops and he is diagnosed. In fact, it may take 20 or even 30 years for a person to develop serious scarring due to the effects of hepatitis C on the liver. During this time, many people do not even realize they have the viral condition.
The liver performs critical functions in the human body. Its major job is to filter toxins and waste from the blood. If the liver does not perform this function, the toxins and wastes build up to a fatal level. The liver also stores important vitamins and minerals; contributes to the production of hormones, sugar, and cholesterol; and aids in digestion by producing bile. Hepatitis C damages a person’s liver and impairs its ability to perform these important functions.
The effects of hepatitis C on the liver begin with the attack the virus wages against liver cells. The virus not only attacks liver cells but also uses them to reproduce. The immune system tries to fight off the virus, which leads to inflammation. In time, the inflammation and substances released as the immune system tries to fight the virus damage the cells of the liver.
One may think the effects of hepatitis C on the liver might only prove temporary. It is easy to imagine that the liver cells may repair themselves or grow back. In fact, many liver cells die as an effect of hepatitis C on the liver, and some of them do grow back. Unfortunately, however, the damage caused by hepatitis C usually outweighs the regrowth rate of liver cells.
Gradually, the effects of hepatitis C on the liver get worse. In time, scar tissue takes the place of a significant portion of the patient's liver. This can lead not only to impaired function, but also to liver failure. Additionally, some people may even develop liver cancer as a result of hepatitis C infection.
Treatment for hepatitis C includes medications that may slow the progression of the disease as well as antiviral drugs intended to fight the virus. A person may also slow the effects of hepatitis on the liver by avoiding alcohol and medications that may cause further damage to the liver. If damage to an individual’s liver is severe, a liver transplant may be necessary.