Can Hepatitis C Cause Kidney Failure?

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  • Can Hepatitis C Cause Kidney Failure?

    Can Hepatitis C Cause Kidney Failure?

    Kidney failure is an advanced stage of kidney disease that can lead to a host of other health problems, some of which can even be fatal. There are many causes of kidney failure, including infectious diseases like hepatitis C.

    To make matters more challenging, kidney failure can increase your risk for contracting infectious diseases. Not all kidney patients will necessarily get hepatitis C, but knowing your individual risks can help you retain a better quality of life. 

  • What Causes Kidney Failure?

    What Causes Kidney Failure?

    Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys stop functioning. Also called renal failure, this is a serious condition that can quickly become life-threatening. The kidneys may seem small and therefore insignificant, but they are actually responsible for numerous body functions. Your body relies on your kidneys for waste disposal and electrolyte balance, such as potassium and sodium. Kidneys also help make healthy red blood cells.

    Given the important functions of the kidneys, it’s easy to see how life would be difficult if they failed to work properly. The most common causes of kidney failure are:

    • infections
    • poisoning
    • drug overdose or abuse
    • medications used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Hepatitis C: An Infectious Virus

    Hepatitis C: An Infectious Virus

    Hepatitis C is a type of infectious virus that is spread through the blood. Also referred to as HCV, this form of hepatitis is considered dangerous because its symptoms may not show up for months, or even years after the initial infection occurs. Furthermore, there is no vaccine available for this type of hepatitis.

    HCV disrupts liver function, and makes the organ inflamed. Without a functioning liver, your body cannot process and therefore make use of nutrients from the foods you eat. Hepatitis C is spread through infected blood, which is why needles are a common method of its transmission.  

  • Severity of HCV

    Severity of HCV

    Hepatitis C may either be acute or chronic. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, acute hepatitis C lasts for six months, while chronic cases last over the long-term. In acute HCV, your body may be able to fight off the infection on its own. Chronic HCV, on the other hand, will persist without treatment and cause other health issues. Medications are prescribed for chronic hepatitis C to prevent liver failure, as well as other organ disruptions.

  • The Link Between HCV and Kidney Disease

    The Link Between HCV and Kidney Disease

    Over time, untreated infections can lead to kidney disease: hepatitis C is no exception. Given the circumstances of HCV, it’s possible that the virus may affect other organs, like the kidneys, without your knowledge. Early detection of hepatitis C may decrease the risk of the infection spreading to other organs in the body. Symptoms include:

    • loss of appetite
    • dark urine
    • diarrhea
    • nausea
    • stomach pain
    • excessive fatigue
    • jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes)

  • Kidney Disease Treatment Risks

    Kidney Disease Treatment Risks

    While there is sometimes a link between hepatitis C and kidney failure, some kidney disease patients may also have the risk of contracting HCV during treatment. One of the greatest risks has historically been related to hemodialysis, a kidney treatment in which the blood is filtered outside your body through a machine. If a needle infected with the hepatitis C virus is used, then you are at risk of contracting the disease. There is also a risk if you receive an infected blood transfusion. The National Kidney Foundation reports that the risks have significantly decreased since the early 1990s, but reports of hepatitis C from hemodialysis still exist.

  • Discuss Testing with Your Doctor

    Discuss Testing with Your Doctor

    Preventive medical care is the best way to detect both viral infections and organ failure. At minimum, you should get an annual blood test to identify any potential problems. Even if you don’t have HCV right now, it’s a good idea that your doctor checks for antibodies. HCV antibodies help protect your liver from this type of infection. Also, all hemodialysis patients should be tested for hepatitis C on a regular basis in the case of accidental infection from treatment.

  • Preventing Infectious Diseases

    Preventing Infectious Diseases

    While not all cases of kidney failure are caused by hepatitis C, you may reduce your risk by protecting yourself from these types of infectious diseases. Remember that HCV is only spread through the infected blood of others. Avoid unsterilized needles used in medical procedures, tattooing, and piercing. Always use a condom during sex, and don’t use drugs.  It’s important to wear gloves if you ever come into contact with the blood of other individuals.

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