Within two decades of infection, at least 20 percent of people with hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis. Signs or symptoms associated with cirrhosis include:
an enlarged or irregularly shaped liver or spleen
weight loss or loss of muscle mass
excessive bruising (the result of diminished clotting factors produced by the liver)
When the liver ceases to function properly and complications develop — a person can die unless he or she receives a liver transplant. Preferably, a liver transplant would be performed before life-threatening complications develop. A liver transplant does not cure hepatitis C, but a new liver can buy someone decades more of life before the new liver becomes diseased. Unfortunately, livers for transplant are in short supply, and many people die each year waiting for one. Hence, treatments to prevent or delay progression of liver disease are strongly encouraged for those at risk for chronic liver disease.
HCV infection also brings a greater risk of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma. After 20 years of infection, 1 percent to 5 percent will develop hepatocellular carcinoma, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of people with hepatitis C experience complications not involving the liver. There is a wide array of uncommon complications, including skin rashes, muscle aches, arthritis and kidney diseases.