Learn more about the symptoms of hepatitis C

Living with Hepatitis C and Liver Transplant as Treatment

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection that’s caused by contact with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

It can affect people in different ways, but most will experience some form of liver damage that can lead to liver failure or liver cancer. Others, however, experience minimal or no physical effects.

Although approximately three to six million people in the United States are infected with HCV, many are unaware that they might be carrying virus as it wasn’t discovered until 1989.

RELATED: Can You Live Without Your Liver?

More than 70 percent of the people infected with hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965, according to the American Liver Foundation. That’s why it’s important not only for people born during that time to get tested, but for everyone to know the symptoms of and treatment for hepatitis C.

Learn more at the Liver Transplant Program at UPMC website, including details on how you can become a life-saving organ donor.

Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis C

It’s common for people with hepatitis C to have no symptoms at all. In fact, most people will experience no signs of sickness, so the condition may go undiagnosed. If you do experience hepatitis C symptoms, you’ll probably notice:

  • Jaundice (a condition that causes yellowing in your eyes, skin, as well as darkening in your urine)
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Achiness in the joints or muscles
  • Itching or hives

Some of those in contact with HCV will clear the virus from their system within six months after being exposed. Most, however, will develop chronic hepatitis C.

Treating Hepatitis C and the Liver

Initially, hepatitis C was treated with various medicines. Recently, however, HCV treatment has evolved, making several different Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs available.

In more serious cases, some people with hepatitis C may or may not respond successfully to medical treatment. This could be due to the level of damage to the liver that causes it to malfunction, or it could be the result of liver failure or liver cancer. In such cases, a doctor may recommend a liver transplant surgery.

Benefits of a Liver Transplant for Hepatitis C

Transplant surgery for hepatitis C is a common option.

Because the number of people on the liver transplant waiting list exceeds the number of deceased donor livers available, living donation has become an essential alternative.

The liver is the only organ that can grow back to its normal size, so a healthy individual can donate a portion of their liver to someone who needs a transplant.

Living donation has become a life-saving option that offers a variety of benefits including:

  • Little to no wait time. The donor and recipient can schedule surgery at a time that’s convenient for both individuals.
  • Quick recovery time. With new minimally invasive surgery procedures, the recipient and the donor are usually back to normal within a few weeks after surgery.
  • Improved long-term outcomes. Recipients have better outcomes because their donor’s healthy liver is functioning up until the time of transplant.

If you are interested in becoming a living donor for someone on the liver transplant waitlist, talk to your doctor.