Hepatitis C is the most deadly of the six forms of hepatitis. It is transmitted through contact with infected blood. An infected person may live for decades without any symptoms. A diagnosis is often made after routine blood work is done. Doctors have little time to treat Hepatitis C because the infection goes unnoticed. According to Dr. James Steckelberg of the Mayo Clinic, 20 percent of people infected with Hepatitis C develop cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver, or liver cancer. Up to 10,000 people die every day from chronic Hepatitis C infection.
Symptoms of End Stage Hepatitis C
Symptoms of end stage Hepatitis C indicate liver failure. The first indications that Hepatitis C has progressed to the final stages include:
Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen Extreme fatigue Yellowing of the skin and eyes, or jaundice Nausea Vomiting
The Final Symptoms
Hepatitis C is a progressive disease. People with liver failure due to Hepatitis C related liver cancer often experience gastrointestinal bleeding due to enlargement of the veins in the esophagus.
Hepatic encephalopathy is a sign of the final stages of Hepatitis C. The symptoms that accompany hepatic encephalopathy begin with abnormal neurological symptoms such as personality changes and progress rapidly to loss of consciousness. Thirty percent of patients dying of Hepatitis C will experience Hepatic encephalopathy.
Treatment of End Stage Hepatitis C
The treatment recommended for end stage Hepatitis C is liver transplant. The supply of healthy livers is much lower than the demand for them in the case of Hepatitis C. Patients in the very late stages of this disease and patients older than 50 should not expect to receive a new liver.
The Needs of the Patient
As Hepatitis C progresses to the final stages, the patient, family and doctor should decide if they want to fight the disease and prolong life, or to allow nature to take its course. If the latter is chosen, the patient can be made as comfortable as possible with pain- and anxiety-relieving drugs. Patient often are asked whether there are any spiritual needs that need to be addressed.
Hospice care can be very helpful to the dying as well as the family. If the Hepatitis C has progressed to the point that the patient is no longer responding to treatment, the doctor may recommend hospice intervention. A hospice volunteer can help the patient die with dignity and peace. The volunteers will be available for the family during and after the illness, providing grief counseling and assisting with funeral arrangements. Hospice volunteers do not prolong life, but improve the quality of life in the patients final moments.