The Facts About Hepatitis C: Prognosis and Life Expectancy

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  • The Facts About Hepatitis C: Prognosis and Life Expectancy

    The Facts About Hepatitis C: Prognosis and Life Expectancy

    Hepatitis C is a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Over time, the virus causes damage to the liver. Many people live with the hepatitis C virus without even knowing they have it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 to 80 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C don’t have any symptoms. Unfortunately, once symptoms appear, damage to the liver has already begun.

    Prognosis and life expectancy for the disease depends on how much the liver is damaged. It also depends on how well a person responds to treatment.

  • Acute Versus Chronic

    Acute Versus Chronic

    There are two types of hepatitis C: acute and chronic. In people with acute hepatitis C, the virus lasts for a short amount of time. The body is able to get rid of the virus on its own. Chronic hepatitis C is long-term. The chronic form can lead to permanent liver scarring (cirrhosis) or liver cancer in its most advanced stages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 75 to 85 percent of people infected with the virus will develop chronic hepatitis C.

  • Genotype

    Genotype

    The goal of treatment for chronic hepatitis C is to kill the virus or to control the disease and prevent further damage to the liver. The type of treatment given depends on the genotype of virus that someone has been infected with. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 75 percent of people in the U.S. infected with the virus have genotype 1; between 20 and 25 percent have genotype 2 or 3; and a very small percent have genotypes 4, 5, or 6. The success of the treatment depends on the genotype.

  • Treatment Plan for Success

    Treatment Plan for Success

    Chronic hepatitis C is treated with several medications. Some of the drugs are used for helping boost the immune system, while others are used for trying to kill the virus. People with genotypes 2 and 3 are twice as likely as people with genotype 1 to be cured. Also, genotype 2 and 3 patients usually see results after 24 weeks of treatment, whereas 48 weeks of treatment is what is typically recommended for genotype 1 patients.

    After completing treatment, 60 to 80 percent of patients with genotype 2 and 3 no longer have the virus. In genotype 1, 60 to 75 percent of patients are virus-free.

  • Cirrhosis and Cancer

    Cirrhosis and Cancer

    According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, five to 20 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C develop cirrhosis. It normally takes 20 to 30 years of chronic hepatitis C to develop into cirrhosis. About four percent of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer. Liver cancer is rarely seen in people without the presence of cirrhosis.

  • Transplant

    Transplant

    When cirrhosis causes the liver to fail, a transplant is usually recommended. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S. After a transplant, antiviral medicine is usually continued. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one to five percent of chronic hepatitis C sufferers die from severe cirrhosis or liver cancer.

  • Hope Is on the Horizon

    Hope Is on the Horizon

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee has recently announced the pending approval of an effective new drug to treat HCV. The new drug is called sofosbuvir, and when used in combination with other drugs, has been shown to be very effective for treating hepatitis C. Patients taking the drug may see results more quickly and with fewer side effects.

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