Hormone regulation

The liver regulates the balance of sex hormones, thyroid hormones, cortisone and other adrenal hormones. It transforms or removes any excess from the body. If the liver cannot do this properly, there is the risk of emotional imbalances.

The levels of white blood cells and antibodies may also decline, compromising immunity and making us more prone to infection.

These kinds of hormonal imbalance are fairly common in chronic liver disease.

Sexual desire and function

Sexual desire depends upon a delicate balance of hormones. If this balance is upset by HCV infection then both men and women can suffer loss of libido. Men can develop increased oestrogen levels that may affect sexual function. Women may suffer unpredictable hormone levels that can cause severe PMT-like symptoms.

The fatigue that viral infections can cause may also make some people too tired to be interested in sex which can also lead to frustration and darker moods.

Adrenaline

Pressures of modern life can lead to excessive production of the stress hormone adrenaline. The liver is responsible for balancing and getting rid of adrenaline. If it cannot keep up with the levels of stress hormones being produced, it is forced to store them.

The presence of stored adrenaline in the liver may lead to emotional instability. It may also weaken the immune system, affecting the body’s ability to fight the virus. This means learning to identify and manage stress is vital.

Production of lymph

Lymph is a colourless fluid that circulates around the body in a network of channels. These channels feature lymph nodes where immune cells neutralise bacteria and pathogens. This is called the lymphatic system, and it is a vital part of the body’s immune system.

Lymph also carries proteins, sodium, potassium and other minerals around the body.

About a third of the lymph that the body requires is produced in the liver. Lymph made in the liver drains into the abdomen and the lymph channels. Although the liver itself does not have lymph nodes, HCV can infect the lymphatic system causing swelling of the lymph nodes.