About a quarter - 25% of people with Hepatitis C infection will clear it in the acute stage. The remaining 75% will vary in what will happen to them over the next years and decades. Some stay perfectly well and do not develop any other damage to their liver. About 20% will develop liver fibrosis and a very small number will develop a liver cancer or liver failure. Some people will have the disease but with only very mild symptoms.
Having other blood-borne infections such as HIV or Hepatitis B together with Hepatitis C will increase the chances of liver problems.
Testing for liver damage - liver fibrosis.
A common test for liver fibrosis is to have a liver biopsy, where a needle is introduced into the liver through the skin and a sample is collected for examination under the microscope. Understandably many patients are frightened of this test and look for alternatives.
High resolution Ultrasound Scanning of the liver can provide important information about the structure of the liver, but not quite as well as a biopsy. A Southampton laboratory, iQur, has developed a blood test called ELF (Enhanced Liver Fibrosis) Test which uses a combination of blood tests to give a high degree of diagnostic accuracy and which may well delay or abolish the need for liver biopsy in Heaptitis C positive patients.
Treatment recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the UK suggests use of pegylated interferon together with the drug ribavirin. Various subtypes of the virus may complicate matters as may the presence of another disease such as HIV, but overall cure rates are in excess of 50%.