You can live many years with hepatitis C and not even know you have it. But without treatment, you could start getting symptoms and have complications of cirrhosis (liver scarring).
What to Expect if You Get Cirrhosis
In the early stages of hepatitis C, your liver still has enough cells to do its many jobs. But with time, more cells die, and pressure builds up in the vein leaving the liver.
When that happens, symptoms of cirrhosis like jaundice may show up.
These are some possible complications of cirrhosis:
- Swelling in your legs and abdomen, which can lead to a serious bacterial infection.
- Enlarged blood vessels in your esophagus or stomach, which can burst and cause serious internal bleeding. This requires immediate medical attention.
- Enlarged spleen, which may lead to a low white blood cell or platelet count.
- Gallstones, from bile (fluid made by the liver) not flowing freely to and from your gallbladder.
- Greater sensitivity to drugs because your liver can’t filter them from your blood.
- Resistance to the hormone insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes.
- Kidney and lung failure.
- Problems fighting infection.
Two other serious complications of cirrhosis are liver cancer and a buildup of toxins in your brain. The latter can interfere with your thinking, and can lead to coma.
You’ll need to see your doctor more often to manage these complications. You’ll have tests to see how your body is reacting. Your doctor may try a new combination of medications.
Managing Symptoms When Hepatitis Gets Worse
Your doctor will help you manage specific symptoms like itchy skin or pain. You can also make lifestyle changes that can help you feel better and might stop further damage to your liver.
Eat a balanced diet. No matter how advanced your cirrhosis, a well-balanced, nutritious diet is one of the best ways to stay healthy. If you have fluid buildup, your doctor may tell you to cut back on salt.
Avoid alcohol and certain medications, supplements, and herbs. Ask your doctor what's safe for you.
Treating Specific Complications
It’s important to be under a doctor’s care for hepatitis and any conditions you get because of it. Some can be life-threatening. Here are treatments for common complications: