6 Facts About the Progression of Hepatitis C

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

There is usually a pattern

Though progression of hepatitis C occurs very slowly, sometimes taking up to 30 years, it can progress much more quickly in some people. Others have the virus for years and have only minimal liver damage. Either way, the progression of the disease usually follows a pattern.


First stage: Inflammation

Inflammation is the first stage of hepatitis C progressing in the body. The liver becomes inflamed, tender and enlarged.

Doctor touching stomach

Second stage: Fibrosis

Fibrosis occurs when the damaged liver develops scars, and as the scars replace healthy liver tissue, liver function decreases.


Third stage: Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is so damaged and scarred that it can no longer heal itself and create new, healthy liver tissue. Cirrhosis develops about 20 years after contracting the disease. But, between 10 and 25 percent of those with hepatitis C develop cirrhosis within 15 years of contracting the virus.

Doctor showing patient a liver model

Fourth stage: Liver cancer

The risk for liver cancer increases as the damage to the liver progresses. Cancer develops about 28 years after contracting the disease.

Senior holding hands

Fifth stage: Liver failure

As hepatitis C progresses, the liver is no longer able to function and is considered to be in failure. When the liver is damaged to the point it can no longer function, it is called end-stage hepatitis C. The only treatment at this point is a liver transplant.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.