A healthy liver performs roughly 500 separate functions, each vital to life. When hepatitis C chronically infects your liver, it damages and eventually kills healthy liver cells.
Your liver’s tissue is dense and smooth when healthy. A liver infected with hepatitis C becomes lumpy and stiff, making it progressively harder for the organ to work properly. Eventually, it can no longer function.
Your body then becomes vulnerable to toxins and infections. Its ability to manufacture blood-clotting products stops. Many other vital processes within your body are halted, causing illness and eventually death.
The liver is the largest organ in your body. It mainly rests in your upper right abdomen, just to the right of your stomach. It’s roughly the size of a football, and it’s an important processing center for the entire body.
As blood passes through your liver, toxins like ammonia and alcohol are filtered out so they can’t cause damage to the body. Your liver manufactures important substances such as bile so that food can be digested and absorbed. It also stores beneficial substances like vitamins and glucose for later use.
Many byproducts of the foods you consume need to be broken down by your liver. Substances like alcohol and medications also need to be processed by your liver. A healthy liver filters substances out of your bloodstream, neutralizes them, and then sends them into the blood or bile so your body can dispose of them.
An example is ammonia, an end product of protein metabolism. It’s a poisonous substance, so your liver converts it into urea and sends it to your kidneys. It eventually leaves your body as urine. Hepatitis C can impede and finally halt this and other life-saving processes within your body.
Your liver extracts sugar from the foods you eat and converts it into glycogen for storage. When your body needs energy, your liver releases the stored sugar back into your bloodstream. A liver damaged by hepatitis C can’t convert, store, and release sugar properly.
Type 2 diabetes can develop if you have hepatitis C and your liver can no longer manage glucose, regularly releasing too much sugar into your bloodstream. If you develop this complication, you’ll need to take medications in order to manage it.
Hepatitis C can cause damage that prevents your liver from managing bile, a substance that’s vital to digestion. Stored in the gallbladder, bile is a bitter-tasting fluid that breaks down fats from food into fatty acids.
When bile isn’t properly handled, gallstones can develop. Gallstones are a common complication of liver disease. Studies have found that people with hepatitis C may have an increased risk for gallstones, particularly men.
Organic compounds that combine to form proteins and amino acids are the building blocks of life. Amino acids are produced by your body and also come from the food you eat. Amino acids are needed for growth and repairing body tissue, and are necessary in many other functions vital to life.
A liver severely diseased with hepatitis C can no longer regulate the amount of amino acids released into the bloodstream. This causes complications that affect brain function and fluid regulation.
Hemoglobin is a protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all other cells in your body. It also carries iron, the most essential mineral to animal life. Iron helps maintain healthy cells throughout your bloodstream and body tissues.
Your liver processes and stores iron from your blood for later use. When hepatitis C damages your liver, it becomes less efficient at processing and storing iron. Without it, your body may become iron-deficient.
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent some complications caused by hepatitis C. Left untreated, hepatitis C causes damage to your liver that eventually affects your entire body. It’s important to talk to your doctor about screening for hepatitis C. Early diagnosis can lead to early treatment to minimize complications.