Hepatitis C is a viral infection that severely damages the liver over time and leads to scarring. This disease progresses in four stages and starts with mild inflammation while finally resulting in severe liver damage or cirrhosis. Once the disease reaches stage four, the liver can no longer function since it gets severely damaged.
To counteract HCV, the immune system releases inflammatory chemicals. The compounds stimulate the liver to produce collagen, which is a fibrous protein that helps repair the damage. Liver damage signs begin to show when the build-up of collagen is quick and it creates scar tissue in the liver. This build-up is called fibrosis. The process stops blood from flowing into liver cells, which eventually leads to the death of liver cells and causes liver failure.
What happens during stage 4 Hepatitis C?
After a person with Hepatitis C virus (HCV) passes through stages such as acute Hepatitis C (Stage 1), chronic Hepatitis C (Stage 2) and fibrosis, it finally reaches stage 4 (cirrhosis or liver failure).
When HCV is not treated, the scar tissue finally takes over much of the liver. This stage is considered as cirrhosis. In the infection’s initial stage, the liver tries to repair the damage, but cannot sustain over a period. The scarring is so severe that it obstructs blood flow into liver and the liver can no longer filter toxins out of the blood. Cirrhosis is known to increase the risk of liver cancer as well.
The symptoms observed during liver cirrhosis are:
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Swelling caused in legs and abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
The liver damage signs are not noticeable in the first stage, but by the second stage, a little fibrosis begins to develop, and liver damage signs can be observed during stage 4. HCV can infect people through the sharing of an infected needle or have sex with a person suffering from Hepatitis C. Moreover, a mother having this infection can pass it on to her unborn child.
So, if you experience any of the symptoms of Hepatitis C or liver damage signs, consult a doctor immediately!