You may have seen numerous literature and commercials about chronic hepatitis C (HCV) and for good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 3.9 million people in the United States may have the chronic form of this virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 70 million people are affected worldwide. What exactly is chronic HCV? In a nutshell, it refers to ongoing inflammation of your liver. But it can lead to symptoms throughout your body. Over time, living with this condition can cause your body to be especially vulnerable to serious health complications.
Image
If liver inflammation leads to liver failure, a buildup of toxins in the brain can cause mental confusion, moodiness, and slurred speech. Unconsciousness may occur if this condition is left untreated. Read More
Although not well understood, HCV can cause your immune system to mistakenly attack your thyroid cells. This can cause both overactive and underactive thyroid function. These conditions can result in fatigue and general sluggishness. Read More
A poorly functioning liver cannot produce needed components to the blood. It can also affect the spleen. This can lead to a wide range of complications like anemia and bleeding problems. Read More
An HCV infection that has caused significant liver inflammation hinders your intestines’ ability to produce bile. This also lowers your body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the food you eat. Read More
Disruption of the digestive system can make it difficult for the body to properly eliminate waste products. This leads to abnormally dark urine or pale, clay-colored stools. Read More
HCV seems to affect how the body interacts with sugar and insulin. Therefore, hepatitis C may also increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Read More
HCV that affects liver function can cause jaundice, or make your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, because of high levels of bilirubin. Read More
A buildup of toxins in the central nervous system can cause breath to have a sweet or musty odor. Read More
Many times, mild liver inflammation won’t cause symptoms. You might feel tenderness in the area, but it may take scarring and damage to the liver before other symptoms are noticeable. Read More
The virus’ interference on your thyroid function along with vitamin absorption problems can also cause poor nutrition and weight loss. Read More
If the liver doesn’t produce enough of the protein albumin, fluid can build up in the abdomen, leading to pain and discomfort. Read More
You may also notice hair, skin, and nail changes. This is likely a result of nutritional difficulties along with the effect HCV has on these systems. Read More
Increased pressure in the liver’s vein system can lead to a burst vein in the gastrointestinal tract, causing internal bleeding. Read More
arrow
toxic_buildup_in_the_brain
Line1
arrow
sleep_disorders
Line2
arrow
unhealthy_blood
Line3
arrow
inefficient_intestines
Line4
arrow
poor_bladder_and_bowel_movements
Line5
arrow
type_2_diabetes
Line6
arrow
Line7
arrow
Line8
arrow
liver_inflammation
Line9
arrow
weight_loss
Line10
arrow
fluids_in_the_stomach
Line11
arrow
Line12
arrow
internal_bleeding
Line13
Image
If liver inflammation leads to liver failure, a buildup of toxins in the brain can cause mental confusion, moodiness, and slurred speech. Unconsciousness may occur if this condition is left untreated. Read More
Although not well understood, HCV can cause your immune system to mistakenly attack your thyroid cells. This can cause both overactive and underactive thyroid function. These conditions can result in fatigue and general sluggishness. Read More
HCV that affects liver function can cause jaundice, or make your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, because of high levels of bilirubin. Read More
A buildup of toxins in the central nervous system can cause breath to have a sweet or musty odor. Read More
A poorly functioning liver cannot produce needed components to the blood. It can also affect the spleen. This can lead to a wide range of complications like anemia and bleeding problems. Read More
Many times, mild liver inflammation won’t cause symptoms. You might feel tenderness in the area, but it may take scarring and damage to the liver before other symptoms are noticeable. Read More
The virus’ interference on your thyroid function along with vitamin absorption problems can also cause poor nutrition and weight loss. Read More
If the liver doesn’t produce enough of the protein albumin, fluid can build up in the abdomen, leading to pain and discomfort. Read More
An HCV infection that has caused significant liver inflammation hinders your intestines’ ability to produce bile. This also lowers your body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the food you eat. Read More
Disruption of the digestive system can make it difficult for the body to properly eliminate waste products. This leads to abnormally dark urine or pale, clay-colored stools. Read More
Increased pressure in the liver’s vein system can lead to a burst vein in the gastrointestinal tract, causing internal bleeding. Read More
HCV seems to affect how the body interacts with sugar and insulin. Therefore, hepatitis C may also increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Read More
You may also notice hair, skin, and nail changes. This is likely a result of nutritional difficulties along with the effect HCV has on these systems. Read More
arrow
toxic_buildup_in_the_brain
Line1
arrow
sleep_disorders
Line2
arrow
Line3
arrow
Line4
arrow
unhealthy_blood
Line5
arrow
liver_inflammation
Line6
arrow
weight_loss
Line7
arrow
fluids_in_the_stomach
Line8
arrow
inefficient_intestines
Line9
arrow
poor_bladder_and_bowel_movements
Line10
arrow
internal_bleeding
Line11
arrow
type_2_diabetes
Line12
arrow
hair_loss_dry_skin_poor_nails
Line13
HCV is transmitted through contact with the blood. It’s rarely transmitted through sexual contact from someone infected with the virus. Ultimately, this infection leads to liver inflammation and a host of other issues that can severely damage your health. The virus has two stages, acute and chronic. The acute stage happens within six months of being exposed to the virus. For some, this is a short-term illness. But according to the CDC, most people — about 75 to 80 percent — will develop chronic HCV. This means it can be lifelong. Most people don’t realize they have the virus until other symptoms within their body start. Although the hepatitis A, B, and C viruses all cause hepatitis, they are three different and distinct viruses.
Advertisement

Your liver

The liver’s job is to process blood and filter toxins from your body. It produces proteins, important blood components, and bile, which helps you digest food. It also stores glucose and vitamins. HCV causes inflammation that interrupts the liver’s ability to perform these vital functions. Early symptoms may be mild and easily dismissed but early treatment is critical to preventing serious damage. When a chronic infection occurs, it can cause cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, over time. As HCV progresses, symptoms like skin problems, blood disorders, and weight loss may appear. Dangerous outcomes like severe liver damage, liver cancer, and liver failure can also occur. A blood test can measure HCV antibodies in your bloodstream. If you have antibodies it means you’ve been exposed to the virus. In most cases, you’ll need to take a second blood test for your doctor to confirm an HCV infection.
Advertisement

Digestive system

A healthy liver is crucial to your health as it supports many other body systems. One function of the liver is to produce bile, a substance needed to break down fats. Your body stores bile in the gallbladder, then sends it to the beginning section of the small intestine when needed. Bile is then combined with stomach acids and digestive fluids from the pancreas, which help the intestines absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. HCV can severely hinder the liver’s ability to produce bile. Poor bile production can make it difficult and uncomfortable to digest fatty foods. You also might feel some pain throughout the abdomen from a buildup of fluid in the stomach. This is known as ascites. It occurs when the damaged liver doesn’t produce enough albumin, a substance that regulates the amount of fluid in cells. Other digestive symptoms include:
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • pale or clay-colored stools
Severe pain can occur if your gallbladder becomes inflamed from HCV. This is an extremely rare cause of gallbladder inflammation and only occurs in the acute stage of the virus.
Advertisement

Central nervous system

When your liver doesn’t filter toxins from the blood, it can damage the central nervous system. This can lead to a variety of symptoms like sweet or musty breath, difficulty with small motor skills, and sleep disturbances. Dry eyes and mouth are sometimes associated with HCV. A buildup of toxins in the brain can cause:
  • confusion
  • forgetfulness
  • poor concentration
  • personality changes
Advanced symptoms include:
  • abnormal shaking
  • agitation
  • disorientation
  • slurred speech
Severe cases may cause coma.
Advertisement

Circulatory system

In addition to filtering toxins, the liver also produces proteins needed for healthy blood and helps to regulate blood clotting. A poorly functioning liver can create blood flow problems and increase pressure in the portal (main) vein that leads to the liver. This can result in portal hypertension, which may force blood to find alternate veins. These veins can burst, causing variceal bleeding. This is severe internal bleeding. A poorly functioning liver is unable to properly absorb, transport, and store iron. This can result in anemia.
Advertisement

Integumentary system (skin, hair, and nails)

Hepatitis C is associated with a wide variety of skin problems. Some common conditions include easy bruising, loss of skin pigment, rashes, and itching. Bilirubin is an important substance that comes from the break down of hemoglobin. When the liver can’t do its job, bilirubin can build up and cause jaundice, or the yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes. Poor liver function can also lead to poor nutrition. This leads to inadequate growth of hair and nails as well.
Advertisement

Endocrine and immune systems

The endocrine system regulates hormones. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland delivers hormones into the bloodstream. Sometimes HCV can cause the immune system to mistakenly attack or damage thyroid tissue. This may lead to either:
  • hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which can cause sleep disorders and weight loss
  • hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), which can cause fatigue and weight gain
A healthy liver also helps manage how sugar is used in the body. The body’s inability to control sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Takeaway

Many people infected with HCV have no symptoms, especially in the acute stage. Some report general fatigue, fever, or nonspecific aches and pains. Most signs and symptoms are more noticeable if the disease becomes chronic. In its chronic state, you’ll likely benefit from treatment in order to prevent permanent liver damage and other potential life-threatening complications.