According to recent statistics, up to 3.5 million Americans may be living with the hepatitis C virus. The interesting thing is that many of them aren’t aware of it until the symptoms have progressed to the chronic stage. At this point, the liver damage done by the virus usually becomes more obvious. Depending on the stage of the disease and their reaction to treatment, some people even develop liver failure.
What Are Your Odds Of Liver Failure With Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C has acute and chronic stages. Liver failure typically happens at the end stage of chronic hepatitis infection. Unfortunately, there is no set time for that to happen.
For some people, it can happen quickly within a few years but it can take up to a decade for others. As a Black American, your odds of having liver failure are higher than other ethnicities. While generally, only about 24% of people who have a chronic hepatitis C infection will develop liver failure, Black people are twice as likely to have the condition.
Typical Signs of Liver Failure
The hepatitis C virus causes damage or cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis has five stages, the last of which is defined as liver failure. At that point, your liver would not be able to carry out its function.
As you get to this stage of liver failure, some of the signs you should look out for include persistent jaundice, loss of appetite, intense itchiness, easy bleeding or bruising, nausea, abdominal pain, and swelling in the limbs.
Additionally, people with liver failure can have bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract as well as damage to the nervous system because of a buildup of toxins in the body.
It should be noted that people with liver failure also have an increased risk of liver cancer so this should be addressed with your doctor.
How It’s Treated
At the first signs of cirrhosis, your doctor will likely prescribe certain medications that are meant to slow down its progression. The aim will be to stop your liver from getting to the stage where its function is completely impaired.
If the medication is not effective, then your only option is getting a liver transplant. Though this will result in the restoration of healthy liver function, it will not cure the infection. Most people will see a resurgence of the hepatitis C virus in their bodies after at least five years of getting a transplant.
With a new liver, however, you’ll be on a medical regimen that will ensure your body doesn’t reject it as well as drugs to address the virus.
Living Well With Liver Failure
When you’re dealing with liver failure, there are a few lifestyle changes that health experts recommend in order to stay as healthy as possible.
These changes include drinking less alcohol, leaving your cigarettes behind, exercising regularly, and eating well. It will also be important to keep on top of your medications and maintain your doctor visit schedule as prescribed.
Since you can develop other diseases because of your hepatitis C infection, it’s best to let your doctor know if you’re having any new symptoms or changes in your health.
While not everyone who has been infected with the hepatitis C virus will go on to develop liver failure, it’s a worthy concern. This is especially true for Blacks.
If you suspect that you could have been infected with the virus, it’s best to get tested as soon as possible so you can start treatment. It’s important to note that even if you don’t respond to treatment, your doctor will have a protocol that can be employed to keep you healthy.