Can Hepatitis C Kill You?
It was one of the first things I wondered during my emergency room diagnosis. I had the hepatitis C virus and I was dying. My liver was failing. I didn’t understand it at all. How could a virus kill me? I didn’t even feel really sick. I was just tired. And yellow. And bleeding. We all want to know: Can hepatitis C kill you?
The answer: yes and no.
No, the virus itself doesn’t over-multiply and invade all of your organs like in a sci-fi movie. It doesn’t even attack anything. It just breeds in the liver. So your liver will stay inflamed, trying to heal itself. In doing so it creates damage, called cirrhosis. Fibrous bands like vines on a fence-line. Twisting and wrapping around your liver. That’s when other organs start to suffer. Because the liver cannot compensate for it’s weakened stage, your whole body feels the hit.
Yes, hepatitis C can kill you. Here are the scenarios that I encountered
Varices bleedout - When the blood backs up from your liver’s portal vein and pushes into your esophagus, you can bleed to death. It doesn’t have to kill you.
Ascites – When your body’s proteins and minerals get out of balance from liver disease, you retain water. Your kidneys get tired. The water can build up inside the lining of your abdomen. If it is not drained, it can create a poisonous environment that is deadly. It doesn’t have to kill you.
Hepatic encephalopathy – Your brain can swell and lead to a hepatic coma and eventually death. It doesn’t have to kill you.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma – With prolonged disease and end stage problems, a cancerous tumor can begin to grow on your liver. It doesn’t have to kill you.
Enlarged spleen – Your liver cannot filter all of the blood. It backs up into your spleen. It can get infected or even rupture. It doesn’t have to kill you.
You’re probably depressed by now and ready for the punch line.
Here it is: I’ve had all of these problems. I had some of them for many years. I took medications for them. I followed my doctor’s advice. I ate a liver-loving diet and stayed active.
I’m still here. Even with a liver transplant, there is not guarantee of longevity. But I’m living proof that hepatitis C can hurt your liver and your body. It doesn’t have to kill you right now. Treat early. Eat healthy. Make lifestyle changes. You can live a longer life.
Maybe you will die at sea while sailing to Spain. Maybe it will happen while you’re skydiving. I have an idea that my family will find me in 30 years sitting on the back porch of my cabin with a journal and a pen in my hand. Hepatitis C won’t have killed me.
Have a question about hep C you have been trying to get answered?