As a contagious liver disease, hepatitis C can be either a mild case that only lasts a few weeks, or it can escalate into a lifelong, serious disease. It occurs when the hepatitis C virus (HCV) attacks the liver, which spreads through blood contraction. But can hepatitis C cause death?
Can You Die from Hepatitis C?
Yes, you can. Chronic hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer, liver failure and cirrhosis, and sometimes even death. Hepatitis C can also increase the chance of death from other diseases like cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer.
The average person with hepatitis C can expect to die fifteen years sooner than someone without the disease. However, if the HCV is cured before it reaches the cirrhosis stage, the life expectancy increases to near average.
Every year, about 19,000 people in America die from liver disease that is hepatitis C-related. 75–85 out of every 100 people with the HCV will progress to chronic hepatitis C infection. Of these:
- 60–70 will progress into chronic liver disease.
- 5–20 will develop cirrhosis within 20–30 years.
- 1–5 will die from liver cancer or cirrhosis.
How Can Hepatitis C Be Treated?
Can you die from hepatitis C? Yes. But early treatment can greatly lower the chance of death.
1. Antiviral Medications
Antiviral medications are used to treat Hepatitis C. These meds are supposed to clear the virus out of your body. To be considered cured, the virus should be undetectable at least twelve weeks after treatment completion.
New advances in the hepatitis C treatment include using antiviral medications that are “direct-acting”, sometimes together with existing meds. These new medications have brought fewer side effects, better outcomes, and shorter treatment time – as much as four weeks shorter. Of course, the type of hepatitis C genotype, the extent of existing liver damage, prior treatments, and other medical conditions factor in the length of treatment and the choice of medications deemed appropriate by your physician.
Because ever-advancing research changes things rapidly, you should always talk to your physician about the best treatments and medications available for your specific type of hepatitis C. Your team of medical professionals will keep tabs on your response to treatment and medications.
Here is a listing of direct-acting antiviral drugs that are commonly used and currently available:
- paritaprevir/ritonavir (always combined)
- simeprevir (Olysio)
- sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)
The ones without a brand name in parentheses are used only in fixed combination drugs:
- elbasvir grazoprevir (Zepatier)
- ombitasvir, paritaprevir/ritonavir and dasabuvir (Viekira Pak)
- ledipasvir sofosbuvir (Harvoni)
- ombitasvir, paritaprevir/ritonavir (Technivie)
2. Liver Transplant
Can you die from hepatitis C? Yes. But liver transplant can help you lower the chance. A liver transplant may be necessary if severe complications have set in as a result of chronic hepatitis C infection. Your diseased liver is removed in a surgical procedure, and then a healthy liver is implanted in its place.
If you receive a whole liver, it means that it comes from a person who has died. Living people may donate a portion of their liver. Receiving a liver transplant doesn’t mean you are automatically cured, because the infection is likely to return. Then you will need to be treated with an antiviral medication. The new direct-acting antiviral medications are being shown to be effective in curing hepatitis C after a liver transplant.
Hepatitis A and B are separate viruses that can cause liver damage too, and complicate hepatitis C. While there isn’t a vaccine for hepatitis C, you can be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, which will benefit your hepatitis C.
What Are the Chances of Curing Hepatitis C?
If you receive treatment early on using the latest and best drug combinations before you have extensive liver damage or scarring, your chance of being cured is more than 95%. The rate of success drops if you take older drugs or if you’ve developed cirrhosis, or if any previous treatment has failed.
Tips for Better Living with Hepatitis C
Can you die from Hepatitis C? Yes, but some things you can for yourself include:
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Don’t take medications that may cause liver damage.
Don’t pass the infection to others by taking the following precautions:
- Don’t let anyone else come into contact with your body fluids.
- Use condoms during sex.
- Don’t get tattoos or piercings.
- Tell any healthcare professionals that treat you, so they can use precautionary methods.
- Talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant.
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented?
Avoid situations that may increase your risk of getting hepatitis C.
- Don’t inject drugs.
- Don’t have multiple sexual partners.
- Don’t get tattoos and body piercings.