Did you know that around 2.4 million in the United States live with a diagnosis of Hepatitis C? Yes, it is that common. And, many people don’t even realize that they have Hepatitis C.
“What is Hepatitis C?” is a frequently asked question by many people. Hepatitis C is a disease that causes infection and inflammation of the liver. It is caused by the transmission of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis A, B, and C are among the most common hepatitis type diseases in the United States.
However, unlike Hepatitis A and B, there is no cause for Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can either be acute or chronic. One of the major complications of hepatitis C is liver damage. This can even include liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis. But, don’t worry as early diagnosis can prevent chronic Hepatitis C symptoms.
In today’s article, we have covered everything from what is Hepatitis C, to Hepatitis C symptoms and Hepatitis C causes, and finally the treatment options for Hepatitis C.
What is Hepatitis C?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) around 71 million people in the world suffer from Hepatitis C symptoms. But, what is Hepatitis C? In layman’s terms, hepatitis C is a condition of inflammation of the liver. It is caused by viruses.
These viruses cause Hepatitis C by invading the liver cells, and as a result, cause dysfunction and swelling. Over time, the inflammation caused by the viruses can lead to liver damage.
Hepatitis C can either be acute, that is, short-term or it can be chronic, or lifelong. If a person has acute Hepatitis C, the Hepatitis C symptoms can last for about 6 months to a year. However, in most cases (more than 50 percent), acute Hepatitis C can become chronic. Acute cases become chronic when the body cannot clear the virus.
As per reports published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the present times, most new cases of hepatitis C occur from contact with needles or other equipment used to prepare or inject drugs. This is often from sharing needles or accidental contact in healthcare settings like hospitals.
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Hepatitis C symptoms
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 80 percent of people with a new HCV infection don’t show any signs or Hepatitis C symptoms. But, some people might report mild to severe symptoms. The alerting symptoms of Hepatitis C include:
- dark urine
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain or discomfort
- joint pain
You should note that the symptoms might not show up right away. Some may take about two to twelve weeks to show the first signs of Hepatitis C. However, a person with an HCV infection and no symptoms can still transmit the virus to other healthy people.
Acute Hepatitis C
Most people with acute Hepatitis C do not show any alarming symptoms. If they do show symptoms, it usually occurs with two to twelve weeks. Doctors call acute hepatitis C the silent epidemic because people rarely receive a diagnosis if they do not show definitive symptoms. The acute symptoms are similar to symptoms of common viral infections. They include:
- a fever
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- dark urine
- clay-colored stool
- joint pain
Chronic Hepatitis C
As we said, Hepatitis C can become chronic only if the body fails to clear the virus. A person can only confirm their Hepatitis C diagnosis during a routine blood test for a blood donation.
Early diagnosis and proper treatment of Hepatitis C can prevent liver damage. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can lead to:
- chronic liver disease, which can happen slowly over several decades without any symptoms
- cirrhosis, or liver scarring, which occurs in up to 20% of people after 20–30 years
- liver failure
- liver cancer
Now that we have discussed the Hepatitis C symptoms, let’s talk about Hepatitis C causes.
Hepatitis C causes
First, let’s bust some myths regarding Hepatitis C. Contrary to popular belief, hepatitis C cannot be caused or spread due to the following:
- Hugging or kissing
- Sharing food or eating utensils like forks, and spoons, etc.
- Mosquito bite
- Coughing or sneezing
Hepatitis C can only be spread in case of blood-to-blood contact with a person carrying the HCV virus. One can contract the virus even if they have had it before. It can be caused by:
- Organ transplant
- Sharing needles
- Childbirth (a mother passing the virus to the baby)
- Sexual contact if blood is exchanged
- Sharing items like razors and needles
- Getting tattoos and piercings with non-sterile equipment
People who have a high risk for transmission with HCV include those who:
- received hemodialysis treatment for a long period
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- had a sexual partner who had hepatitis C
- have used needles that were used before
These were all the known causes of Hepatitis C. Now, let’s look at treatment options.
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Treatment for Hepatitis C
In some people, their immune system response is strong enough to fight the virus and clear the body of the virus. Such people don’t need any type of treatment for Hepatitis C. However, for those whose immune system cannot fight the HCV virus, medications are usually effective.
Hepatitis C medications:
Most Hepatitis C medications include antivirals, including Riboviria. Hepatitis C Medications called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) work to completely eradicate the hepatitis C virus from your body while helping prevent liver damage. Names of these medications include:
The hepatitis C genotype can affect your treatment options. Once your doctor knows your genotype, they’ll have a better idea of which medication will work best for you. Therefore, do not try to self-diagnose, or take medications without proper consultation with the doctor.
There are also several things you can do to prevent contracting the HCV virus. The preventive steps include:
- Getting tattoos and piercings only at licensed places with proper sanitation
- Practicing safe sex with your partner by using barriers such as condoms
- Not sharing needles or syringes
- Avoid using someone else’s razor, nail clippers, needles, toothbrush, etc.
This was all you needed to know about the hepatitis C virus. Stay safe!
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