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How Long Can a Person Live after Being Diagnosed with Hepatitis C?

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Ask a Doctor

I went in for a blood test for another health issue and the doctor diagnosed me with hep C. My head is spinning as I had no idea I was infected and I know next to nothing about the disease as I have no symptoms. My main question: How long can a person live after being diagnosed with hepatitis C?

Doctor’s Response

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that harms the liver. In about 25% of patients, the virus will go away on its own without treatment, but the majority of hepatitis C cases become chronic infections.

People with hepatitis C can live many years after diagnosis, but the range varies. A 2014 study showed that patients infected with hepatitis C virus died on average 15 years sooner than people who did not have the illness.

With hepatitis C, the liver becomes seriously damaged due to inflammation. This can lead to a complication called cirrhosis, which is severe scarring of the liver. It can also lead to liver failure and liver cancer. About 10-20 percent of patients with hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis within 20-30 years, 3-6 percent will go into liver failure, and 1-5 percent will develop liver cancer.

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Reviewed on 1/10/2019
Carter, Michael. Two US studies show that hepatitis C has a major impact on life expectancy. 27 May 2014. 12 November 2018 .

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public. 2 November 2018. 12 November 2018 .