Hepatitis C causes liver inflammation. The virus can cause serious damage to the liver. The infection is spread when one comes into contact with infected or contaminated blood.
In the past, hepatitis C medicines included oral medications and weekly injections. Many people could not use the medications because of the side effects and other underlying health issues.
Today, the virus can be treated using oral medications prescribed to be taken a day for 2-6 months. The worrying part is that most people who have the infection are not even aware of it. This is because symptoms are not always present and can take a long time before they appear.
Therefore, it is recommended that all adults who are within the age bracket of 18-79 years be screened for the virus even when they do not have liver disease or any symptoms. The group with the highest risk of catching the virus are those born anywhere between 1945 and 1965.
Hepatitis C can be chronic, meaning that it can last for many years until the liver is damaged enough to cause symptoms and assigns associated with liver diseases. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Poor appetite
- Easy bruising
- Bleeding easily
- Weight loss
- Legs swelling
- Ascites or fluid buildup within the abdomen
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Spider angiomas or blood vessels that are spiderlike on the skin
- Slurred speech
Before getting to the chronic stage, infections are acute first. Hepatitis C is usually undiagnosed because, in most cases, there are no symptoms involved. The acute symptoms may appear months after exposure.
The infection does not always get chronic. The body can clear the infection by itself in some cases. Antiviral therapy usually helps with acute hepatitis C.
HCV or hepatitis C virus causes the infection, and it spreads when contaminated blood enters the body of someone who is not infected. The virus exists in different genotypes. Seven genotypes are quite distinct. Other 67 subtypes have also been identified. In the United States, type 1 is the most common.
Chronic infection usually follows the same course. However, the treatments used can vary with the genotype involved.
You are at a higher risk of infection if you have ever:
- Inhaled or injected illicit drugs
- You are HIV positive
- Have been tattooed or pierced in an environment that is not clean or unsterile
- Gotten an organ transplant or blood transfusion before the year 1992
- Have been receiving hemodialysis kind of treatment
- Your mother had the infection
- Or you ever received any clotting factor concentrates before the year 1987
Infection can cause liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
Diagnosis may be made through MRE, transient elastography, blood tests, or liver biopsy.
Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. There are different risk groups, and screening is recommended even when one does not have any signs. The complications can be severe and sometimes fatal. Getting treatment is highly recommended.