Articles GI Issues

Approximately 100 million individuals in the United States have been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, while another 2.4 million people live with hepatitis C. However, the number may be as high as 4.5 million because many people have the condition but haven't been identified. Both illnesses affect the afflicted person's liver. However, about 40% of persons infected with hepatitis C have a co-occurring diagnosis of fatty liver disease. So, what exactly is fatty liver disease, and how does it relate to hepatitis C? This information will assist you in comprehending these diseases and how to overcome them.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an illness that attacks the liver and is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). This disease is transferred via tainted blood from an infected person. Unregulated tattoos, razor blades, or unclean toothbrushes may spread this infection. Blood transfusions have been dangerous in the past, but modern safety measures have reduced this danger. HCV, on the other hand, remains one of the most prevalent viral infections transmitted via blood in the United States.

Your liver is an important organ that filters toxins helping fight infection. Additionally, it affects other crucial functions like:

  • Enzymes that can help with a wide range of bodily processes are activated.
  • Turning nutrients into energy
  • The production of bile helps with the digestion process.
  • Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are macronutrients providing our bodies with energy.
  • Iron storage
  • synthesizing blood protein and anticoagulant factors

These essential activities are hampered when the liver is inflamed with hepatitis C. You will be more likely to develop long-term, persistent infections. This might raise your chances of developing problems such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

As many as two million people don't know they are living with hepatitis C. The reason is that chronic patients may not show symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly. Most of the time, people realize they have the virus through routine screenings for other illnesses.

Some potential symptoms of hepatitis C are:

Some hepatitis C patients can develop a complication called fatty liver disease, which can also be a singular instance of liver illness.

Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease, or Steatosis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is a buildup of fat in the liver that causes scarring and inflammation. There is also a type of alcoholic fatty liver caused by heavy drinking. Fatty liquor disease has been linked to high triglycerides, blood sugar, and obesity.

While fatty liver disease may not seem problematic at first, it can cause a range of issues down the road if left untreated, including:

  • Tissue damage and liver inflammation are linked.
  • Scarring or fibrosis may develop, which impairs the liver's ability to function.
  • If there is less healthy liver tissue than scars, it leads to liver cirrhosis- a fatal illness.

Fatty liver disease often has no symptoms until it has advanced to a more severe stage. 

These signs might include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Edema
  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss & Nausea
  • Mental confusion & Tiredness
  • Frailty

Are Fatty Liver Disease & Hepatitis C Related?

According to recent research, there is a strong connection between fatty liver disease and hepatitis C. You can develop the fatty liver disease by itself, or accompanying a hepatitis C infection. According to data gathered, about 50% of people with hepatitis C also have fatty liver disease.

A fatty liver disease is a form of chronic liver damage that may or MAY NOT be caused by hepatitis C. There are two forms of fatty liver disease that people with hepatitis C face:

  • Metabolic fatty liver is classified into three distinct types: non-alcoholic fatty liver, Fabry's disease, and steatosis. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood fat levels, or insulin resistance might induce it.
  • The HCV virus is the root cause of hepatitis C-induced fatty liver disease.

You can have both forms of fatty liver disease simultaneously. Both conditions cause damage to the liver, which harms hepatitis C symptoms.

When should you consult a medical professional?

If you're suffering from either of these diseases, or if lab tests reveal that you have hepatitis C or elevated liver enzymes, it's time to visit a physician. A blood test is used to establish a diagnosis of hepatitis C.

If you're suffering from fatty liver, your doctor may use an ultrasound or a CT scan to get a look at the liver to confirm the diagnosis. A liver biopsy may also be ordered to assess how far the illness has advanced.

Are these liver issues curable?

In many cases, hepatitis C can be treated with current antiviral medications and eliminated. Your viral load will be measured around 12 weeks after treatment to verify that the virus has been eradicated.

If you also have fatty liver disease, doctors typically focus on helping you make lifestyle changes that improve the condition. Some of these treatments may include:

  • Alcohol avoidance
  • Weight Loss
  • If you have cholesterol, triglycerides, or diabetes, medications can help manage these conditions.
  • Vitamin E

Patients with advanced liver fibrosis need to be monitored every six months for an increased risk of developing liver cancer.

Don't worry if you've been diagnosed with fatty liver or hepatitis C – GI Associates & Endoscopy Center can help. We've helped patients recover from and manage these liver disorders, so please don't hesitate to talk to our team and schedule an appointment today.

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