HCV claims the lives of up to 13,000 Americans every year. It is one of the major causes of chronic liverdisease in the United States and is now the number one reason for liver transplants. There are over 17,000 people waiting for donor livers and the majority of those have HCV. Only about 4,000 donor livers are available per year in the United States.
About 15% of people with chronic hepatitis C will go on the develop end stage liver disease or liver cancer. Of the 15% total, 10% will develop end stage liver disease and 5% will develop cancer. 1 – 2% will develop both. End stage liver disease is a medical emergency because your liver will be seriously impaired in its ability to carry out its normal functions. A functioning healthy liver carries out the bodies major biological processes as follows:
- It stores vitamins, iron and other minerals that the body needs.
- It makes new proteins needed for all normal bodily functions.
- It makes bile to aid in the digestion of food.
- It rids the body of toxins that we take in, including alcohol, drugs, smoke, exhaust fumes, etc.
- It stores energy in the form of complex sugars.
- It make clotting factors to help stop the bleeding from injuries.
- It helps the body to fight off bacterial and viral infections.
When a person’s liver can no longer carry out these functions you are said to be in liver failure. A person in liver failure will need an immediate liver transplant. For people in end stage liver disease, some liver function is still remaining. A liver transplant will be needed in the near future or liver failure and death will eventually occur.
People with compromised livers often times turn to Milk Thistle as an herbal remedy.
Conditions that indicate a liver transplant:
End Stage Cirrhosis:
- Severe exhaustion that interferes with work, exercise or the ability to carry normal everyday activities.
- Dark urine and light stools.
- Easy bleeding from cuts, scrapes or bruises.
- Constant itching.
- Ascities and edema (fluid build-up in the abdomin or feet and legs).
- Mental confusion (encephalopathy).
- Easy bruising (portal hypertension or too little prothrombin).
- High fever and chills.
- Hormonal problems (gynecomastia, testicular altrophy, loss of pubic or underarm hair).
- Depression and anxiety.
- Blood clotting problems.
- Misshapen fingertips and nails. Grayish, slate-colored skin caused by too much iron.
About 5% of people with chronic hepatitis C will develop liver cancer. High risks for hepatitis C infected people to develop liver cancer are:
- Have been infected with hepatitis C for several decades.
- Late stage cirrhosis.
- Co-infection with hepatitis B or HIV.
- Being older than 40.
- Being male.
- Having a history of alcohol abuse.
- People with genotype 1.
- People who have high blood levels of the virus.
Liver cancer is usually diagnosed when blood tests reveal an increased level of a protein called alpha-fetoprotein. A level of more than 500 nanograms/ml may indicated that a person has liver cancer. Doctors will also use ultrasound, CT acans, Gallium scans and biopsies to make a diagnosis of liver cancer. If you are diagnosed with liver cancer, your doctor will need to determine if the liveer tumor is local to the liver or has it spread from somewhere else in the body. People with cancer that is not local to the liver are not candidates for a liver transplant. People with hepatitis C and liver cancer usually have extensive cirrhosis that will require a liver transplant.Read More