Hepatitis C

An Overview

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that infects the cells of the liver. Most cases occur in people who share needles or injecting equipment contaminated with traces of blood to inject ‘street drugs’. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can all cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus. Some people clear the infection naturally. Some people with persistent infection remain free of symptoms, although others have symptoms. Persistent infection can lead to ‘scarring’ of the liver (cirrhosis) and may lead to liver cancer. Treatment can clear the infection in over half of cases.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” meaning a new infection or “chronic,” meaning lifelong infection. For that reason, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults ages 18 to 79 years be screened for hepatitis C, even those without symptoms or known liver disease.

Symptoms for Hepatitis C

The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, but you might not have symptoms at all. If you do, they may include:

  • Belly pain
  • Clay-colored poop
  • Abdominal pain
  • Easy bleeding
  • Dark urine
  • Itchy Skin
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hives or rashes
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellow tint to your skin or eyes)
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen legs
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

How does Hepatitis C Spread

Hepatitis C is spread only through exposure to an infected person’s blood

You can be exposed to the virus from:

  • Sharing injection drugs and needles.
  • Blood transfusions in countries that don’t screen blood for hepatitis C.
  • Having sex, especially if you have an STD, an HIV infection, several partners or have rough sex.
  • Are a man who has sex with men.
  • Being stuck by infected needles.
  • Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C.
  • Sharing personal care items like tooth brushes, razor blades and nail clippers.
  • Pipes and straws to smoke or snort drugs can have blood on them from cracked lips or nosebleeds.
  • Getting a tattoo or piercing with unclean equipment.
  • Live with someone who has hepatitis B.
  • Travel to a country with outbreaks of hepatitis B.

The virus is not passed on during normal social contact, such as holding hands, hugging or sharing cups or crockery.

Diagnosis

A simple blood test can detect antibodies to HCV in your blood. (Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to attack germs such as viruses, bacteria, etc.) A positive test means that you have at some stage been infected with hepatitis C.

If the antibody test is positive then a further blood test is needed to see if the virus is still present. This is called a PCR test. 

  • Measure the quantity of the hepatitis C virus in your blood (viral load)
  • Identify the genotype of the virus
  • A series of blood tests can indicate the extent of fibrosis in your liver

Treatment

The most common treatment for chronic hepatitis C is a combination of highly active antiviral agents known as direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). You can get hepatitis A if you eat food or drink water that has the hepatitis A virus in it. Hepatitis C treatments have vastly improved over the years. Today’s medications are more effective at ridding the body of the virus, and they have fewer side effects.

  • Tablets to fight the virus.
  • A test to see if your liver is damaged.
  • If you have developed serious complications from chronic hepatitis C infection, liver transplantation may be an option. In most cases, a liver transplant alone doesn’t cure hepatitis C. The infection is likely to return, requiring treatment with antiviral medication to prevent damage to the transplanted liver.
  • Hepatitis C is treated using direct acting antiviral (DAA) tablets.
  • The goal of treatment is to have no hepatitis C virus detected in your body at least 12 weeks after you complete treatment.
  • DAA tablets are the safest and most effective medicines for treating hepatitis C.
  • A third blood test may be ordered to determine the genotype or strain of the virus.

Prevention

 A common way it spreads is through sex or sharing needles with a person who has the disease.

You can prevent infection with a vaccine. The CDC recommends that babies get their first dose shortly after they’re born.

  • Avoid “street” food.
  • Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol speeds the progression of liver disease.
  • Wear gloves if you are a health care worker who is exposed to other people’s blood. 
  • Only drink bottled water and use it to brush your teeth. You can also boil your tap water for at least 1 minute.
  • Don’t sip on cocktails and other drinks with ice cubes.
  • Avoid sex or use a condom when you or your partner is menstruating or when one or both of you have an open genital sore.
  • Help prevent others from coming in contact with your blood. Cover any wounds you have and don’t share razors or toothbrushes.
  • Skip dairy products and undercooked meat and fish.
  • Don’t order salads or fresh fruit from restaurants, since you don’t know if it was washed with clean water.
  • Peel and wash your own greens using bottled water.
  • Wash your hands well after you go to the restroom, change diapers or before you eat or serve food.

How Hepatitis C Is Not Spread

  • Hepatitis C is not known to spread by casual contact, kissing, hugging, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils, coughing or sneezing
  • However, you should use a condom if you and your partner have had multiple sexual relationships or sex with someone you know has hepatitis C.

Hope this Symptoms and cure article will be helpful to all. Do not forget to share your valuable suggestions if any.

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