Hepatitis C Home > Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Most people with hepatitis C don't have any symptoms. But when the liver becomes badly damaged with cirrhosis and liver failure occurs, a person may experience several late symptoms of hepatitis C. These late symptoms of hepatitis C can include things like a fluid buildup in the stomach area and legs, intestinal bleeding, easy bruising, and slowed mental function.

Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C: An Overview

When a person is infected with the hepatitis C virus, they usually do not develop early symptoms of hepatitis C. In fact, 80 percent of people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms, even after many years. Most patients do not have hepatitis C symptoms until there is already cirrhosis, or even liver failure. These conditions can cause late symptoms of hepatitis C.

Understanding Liver Changes Associated With Hepatitis C

In the early stages of hepatitis C, the liver first becomes inflamed, or swollen. The virus is damaging the cells of the liver, which alerts your immune system to send in several of its defenses.
While the liver tries to repair itself, scar tissue is forming at the same time. This is called fibrosis.
When the scarring within the liver gets bad, it can interfere with or even prevent blood from flowing freely through the liver. This makes it harder for the liver to do its job. As the hepatitis continues, more scars are formed and can begin to join together. When many of these scars form together, it is called cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis means that large areas of the liver have become very badly scarred -- usually permanently. This causes the liver to shrink and harden.
As the liver continues to be damaged and scarred, it may stop performing one or more of its normal functions. For example, it may stop cleaning harmful wastes, toxins, and drugs from the blood. It may also stop making enough of the proteins your body needs to function properly. This is called liver failure.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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