Liver Cirrhosis and Hepatitis C

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Liver cirrhosis is mostly reported among young people above the age of 20 years. The condition is more common among older patients, but extremely rare in infants and children. The condition is characterized by liver damage beyond repair. Cirrhosis can be caused due to excessive alcohol consumption, severe infections, prior history of Hepatitis C Virus infection and many more. Hepatitis C infection has a more pronounced effect on the liver and can adversely affect the liver. As per the recent statistics, for every 80 people diagnosed with Hepatitis C infection, approximately 15 of them show higher risks of liver cirrhosis. This is because, the chronic infection directly damages the liver, thereby reducing its functioning capability over time.

A.     What is Liver Cirrhosis?

Unrecoverable damage to the liver is the primary characteristic of liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis may also occur due to permanent scarring which results from other underlying liver disorders. Since the liver is one of the most vital organs of the body, any kind of damage leads to metabolic imbalance thereby affecting other body functions at large. Cirrhosis may also lead to hindered blood circulation and reduced regulatory functioning. The primary causes of liver cirrhosis are:

  • Hepatitis infection. Though type C is dreaded the most, type B and type D are also fatal
  • Unregulated alcohol consumption
  • Recessive disorders or inheritance of defective genes. Such candidates often have a history of Wilson’s disease, or might have suffered from hemochromatosis.
  • History of diseases like Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis as well as Primary Biliary Cholangitis
  • Metabolic disorders like galactosemia, the inadequacy of alpha-1-antitrypsin

B.     Problems faced during Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis, though very uncommon among infants and babies, may occur from biliary atresia: a condition, where the common bile duct gets clogged and deprived of its normal functioning ability. Such babies are often diagnosed with jaundice and might require an immediate liver transplant.

However, in adults, the problems or symptoms of cirrhosis are mostly indicative of failing liver function. That is, the candidate may have troubled digestion, lack of healthy appetite, nausea, easy fatigue, tiredness, thorough weakness. Besides, in advanced stages, lack of normal albumin levels in the blood may cause fluid accumulation in the body, frequent bleeding, itchy skin, etc. Other problems caused due to cirrhosis are:

  • Formation of gallstones. Gallstones are commonly associated with the condition due to reduced bile production and transportation.
  • Accumulation of harmful toxins in the blood. This mainly occurs due to the faulty excretion of unwanted toxins inside the body. Excess toxin buildup inside the body affects the brain and causes Hepatic Encephalopathy, which causes nervous imbalance, impaired cognitive functioning, insomnia, and many other symptoms.
  • Swelling of the spleen as well as the liver due to blocked or hindered hepatic portal circulation.
  • The blockage may cause the circulatory system to devise a new route via varices. Excessive blood circulatory pressure may cause portal hypertension resulting in bleeding in the upper portion of the alimentary canal.

C.     Liver Cirrhosis and its relationship with Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is one of the most common viral infections, that causes serious effects on the liver. Caused due to the Hepatitis C virus or Hep C virus, the disease mostly spreads through blood or body fluids. The use of infected needles or casual unprotected intercourse with an infected individual may cause the disease to occur. However, the infection only comes into light after a certain amount of time. The period after which the condition becomes visible may vary from 2-3 weeks up to 5-6 months. Hepatitis C directly affects the liver causing serious damage and cirrhosis. However, the infection is not cytopathic. Cirrhosis from Hep C infection is mostly caused due to immune-mediated defensive action of the body while combating the infection. Being affected with the Hep C virus may lead to severe damage and irreversible scarring thereby causing cirrhosis. Although there are several treatments (conventional, medicinal, as well as therapeutic), yet in extreme cases, liver transplant for liver cirrhosis remains the only suitable option.