Hepatitis C – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Sexually active people need to take their health into their own hands by learning more about STDs and STD symptoms. Hepatitis C is one of the family of the hepatitis virus and is considered to be the most harmful blood borne strain that can cause liver damage and death. Globally, it is estimated that more than 180 million people are infected with this disease. Unfortunately, the greater majority of people infected with Hep C are not aware they have the illness. Generally, it isn’t until years after exposure that the disease shows up.
What Is Hepatitis C?
The hepatitis C virus, or HCV, is an infectious disease that is often asymptomatic. It is among a group of viruses that attack the liver. However, over time the virus slowly attacks the liver which can lead to inflammation and scarring. The virus can also cause more serious liver complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer along with complications with the esophagus and digestive system. In fact, according to the CDC, hepatitis is the most common cause of liver cancer. With an estimated 80,000 new infections occurring annually, it is not surprising that roughly 4.4 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis.
Hep C can be either acute, or chronic in nature. An acute hepatitis C infection is short lived. Typically, an acute infection appears within six months of a person being exposed to the virus. Generally, those who experience an acute infection will develop to a chronic infection later. Chronic infections are very serious and involve long-term health problems that can be life threatening.
How Is Hepatitis C Spread?
Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Before blood screening became a widespread practice, Hep C was commonly contracted by individuals that need a blood transfusion. Now that more stringent screening of blood is in place it more common for IV drug users to contract the virus because of needle sharing.
At one point in time sexual activity was considered one of the number one causes of exposure to the hepatitis type C. Now, transmission of the infection through sexual activity is considered to be rare. However, individuals with multiple partners are considered to be at a greater risk of contracting the disease. Transmission of the infection through sexual activity is more likely to occur when people participate in more traumatic sexual behaviors that may lead to anal, or vaginal tearing. However, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced when safe sexual practices are applied.
How Do I Know If I Have Hepatitis C?
Determining whether or not you have a Hep C infection can be difficult because the infection doesn’t usually produce symptoms in its early stages. When a person does end up having hepatitis C after exposure, the symptoms and signs mimic the symptoms of a flu and are so mild that they don’t sound any alarm bells. These symptoms can appear anywhere from two weeks, to six months after being exposed to the disease. The average time from exposure to the onset of symptoms in between is six to nine weeks. The only way to know whether or not you have been infected is to get your blood tested from your doctor.
Hepatitis C Signs And Symptoms
Whether you have acute or chronic hepatitis, symptoms of the disease can often be confused with other ailments. Some common symptoms of hepatitis type C infection may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal discomfort and yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes from jaundice. More serious signs of hepatitis may include fever, muscle soreness, joint pain and tenderness in the area of the liver.
How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed And Tested?
Diagnosis of the type C hepatitis virus is essential to the long-term health of those infected with the illness. If you suspect that you have been infected a blood test can determine whether or not you have the disease. Blood tests can also measure the amount of virus present in your blood stream and determine the genotype of your virus, which can be useful in determining which hepatitis C treatment will be most effective for you.
Doctors may also recommend that you have a liver biopsy done if they believe you have been infected by hepatitis type C. This procedure involves a small needle being inserted through your skin and into your liver so a small sample tissue can be extracted. This tissue sample is then sent for laboratory testing. This testing can help determine the severity of the disease and help guide doctors toward the most appropriate treatment options.
What Is the Difference Between Hepatitis A, B and C?
There are many different types of hepatitis; including the most commonly seen types of A, B and C. The spread of hepatitis A and B are widely controlled through vaccination efforts, but there is no hepatitis C vaccine. Hepatitis A is contracted most commonly through contact with objects like food and beverage that are contaminated with the fecal matter of infected individuals. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person such as blood, semen and saliva.
Complications Of Hepatitis C
The primary concern with patients who have a hepatitis infection are the complications that occur as a result of the infection. Scarring occurs as a result of the infection and this scarring makes it difficult for the liver to function properly. After being infected for many years damage to the liver can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and even death.
Can Hepatitis C Be Cured?
If a patient is diagnosed with hepatitis C, treatment is usually a combination of two antiviral drugs: interferon and ribavirin to protect existing healthy cells from further infection.
Many people wonder is hepatitis C curable? According to Cedars Sinai, more than 50 percent of patients diagnosed with hepatitis C will be cured of the disease.