Hepatitis C- All you need to know

By on August 4, 2016

Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C may be seen as acute stage hepatitis C and chronic stage hepatitis C.

Here are a few FAQs which can help us know, identify, prevent or treat this disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of acute stage hepatitis C?

More than two thirds of people who become infected have no symptoms in acute stage. For those who develop symptoms (2 to 26 weeks after infection), the symptoms last for 2 to 12 weeks. The symptoms may include upper abdominal pain, especially on the right, dark urine, light colored bowel movements, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), nausea and upset stomach, fatigue, low grade fever and chills, muscle aches, loss of appetite, mood swings, joint pains, and itching of the skin.

What are the signs and symptoms of chronic stage hepatitis C?

In the chronic stage, patients typically go years or decades without symptoms. This is sometimes referred to as "latent" or "dormant" hepatitis C. Eventually, the chronic hepatitis becomes active with liver inflammation and scarring. Left untreated, this can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), and death. The initial symptoms of chronic hepatitis C are weakness and fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle and joint aching, weight loss. As chronic hepatitis C progresses to liver failure (hepatic decompensation), additional symptoms develop including dark urine, light colored bowel movements, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), itching, swelling of the abdomen (ascites) and legs and feet (edema) due to fluid accumulation, vomiting blood, confusion, easy bruising and bleeding, and generalized abdominal pain.

hepatitis virus

How do you get hepatitis C?

The virus spreads through the blood or body fluids of an infected person. You can catch it by sharing drugs and needles; having sex, especially if you have an STD, an HIV infection, having several partners, or have rough sex; being stuck by infected needles; receive blood from a donor who had the disease; tattoos and piercings; blood transfusions. The infection may also be passed from mother to child during childbirth.

Hepatitis C does not spread through food, water, or by casual contact.

What are the laboratory tests to diagnose hepatitis C?

Blood tests will be done to evaluate the patient's liver function (liver blood tests) and to look for hepatitis C antibodies (serologies). If these tests indicate that the person has hepatitis C, a hepatitis C "viral load" test will be done. This is helpful in determining if treatment is appropriate and in monitoring the success of the treatment (how well the patient responded).

hcv test

What are other tests done in hepatitis C?

Once the diagnosis of hepatitis C is established, other tests may be done to determine whether the patient has developed liver fibrosis or scarring (cirrhosis). Liver imaging can evaluate fibrosis using ultrasound and MRI scans. Additionally, calculations using a variety of blood tests (FibroSure, FibroTest, Hepascore, FibroSpect, APRI) also can predict the degree of inflammation and fibrosis present. Genotype testing can find subtype of hepatitis C the patient has, as this will impact what drugs are used for treatment.

What are the treatments?

You should talk to your provider about your treatment options and when the treatment should begin. The goal of treatment is to rid the body of the virus. This can prevent liver damage that may lead to liver failure or liver cancer. Treatment is especially important for people who are showing signs of liver fibrosis or scarring.

Medicines used to treat hepatitis C are called antiviral drugs because they fight the HCV. Newer antiviral drugs provide a much improved cure rate, have fewer side effects and are easier to take, taken by mouth for 12 to 24 weeks. The choice of the drug depends on the genotype of the virus you have. A liver transplant may be recommended for people who develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. Your provider can tell you more about liver transplant.

taking medication

Can hepatitis C be cured?

With the newer forms of antiviral treatment, the most common types of chronic hepatitis C can be cured in most individuals.

hepatitis c celebrities

(Celebrities with Hepaticis C. Information source : everydayhealth.com )

Living with Hepatitis C Infection

If you have hepatitis C, there are several important things that you can do to help yourself and others such as eat a healthy diet and get plenty of rest. Avoid further liver damage by abstaining from alcohol, avoiding medicines that can cause liver damage (these can be identified by your health-care professional), getting vaccinated against hepatitis A & B if you are not already immune.

You can avoid passing the infection to anyone else by taking precautions such as not sharing toothbrushes or razors with others, not letting anyone else come into contact with your blood, urine or feces, use condoms during sexual activity, limit the number of sex partners you have, not sharing needles or syringes with anyone else, and best not get tattoos or body piercings. You should notify your partner of your hepatitis C prior to having sex. You also must notify all your health-care professionals of your infection, so they can take precautions.

Can you die from hepatitis C?

You can die from hepatitis C if it progresses to liver failure and is not treated correctly. Moreover, hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), which also can be fatal.

How to Prevent Hepatitis C Infection?

Hepatitis C virus can only be transmitted through blood and body fluids; exposure to even tiny amounts of blood is enough to cause infection.

  • There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent becoming infected with hepatitis C.
  • Never share needles.Avoid direct exposure to blood or blood products.Don't share personal care items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail and hair clippers, and scissors.
  • Choose tattoo and piercing parlors carefully.
  • Practice safe sex.

Though we always have improving science and technology to our aide, the old saying goes totally good in this case where we say "Prevention is better than cure."

Image courtesy: hepatitiscentral.com , boliviamedica.com , passporthealthusa.com , roxyaddict.com , 

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