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Hepatitis C (cont.)

What is the outlook for a person with hepatitis C?

The outlook for a person with hepatitis C depends upon the stage of the disease when it is discovered and how it is managed.

  • Following the initial infection, up to 50% of patients will spontaneously clear the virus, curing themselves and not requiring treatment.
  • If a patient goes on to develop chronic hepatitis C, they may have no symptoms at all for years to decades.
  • About 4% of patients with chronic hepatitis C go on to develop symptoms every year. Thus, after 5 years, 20% of these patient would have symptoms; after 10 years, 40% would have symptoms.
  • Once symptoms develop, gradual progression to liver failure, cancer, and death can occur if appropriate treatment is not given. If liver failure occurs, antiviral therapy is of little value, and liver transplantation is required. Chronic hepatitis C is the single most common reason for liver transplantation in the US.
  • If appropriate initial treatment is given using the latest drug combinations before extensive liver damage and scarring occur, the chances of cure (sustained viral response, or SVR) are over 95%. The success rate of treatment goes down if older drugs are used, if there is cirrhosis or if prior treatment has failed.

Can you die from hepatitis C?

You can die from hepatitis C under two circumstances. If hepatitis C progresses to liver failure, this will result in death if not treated correctly. Moreover, hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), which also can be fatal. Fortunately, with better diagnostic tests, better drug treatment options, liver transplantation and ongoing research, death from hepatitis C is becoming less common in the United States.


Jensen DM. A new era of hepatitis C therapy begins. N Engl J Med. 2011 Mar 31;364(13):1272-4.

Rosen HR. Clinical practice. Chronic hepatitis C infection. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2429-38

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2016
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Hepatitis C »

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 170 million individuals worldwide are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

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