Hepatitis C – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Prevention

Hepatitis C is a disease that causes infection and inflammation of the liver. One can develop this condition after being infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), it is also highly contagious.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a spherical, enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus and can produce at least 10 trillion new viral particles each day.

Types of Hepatitis C

1. Acute Hepatitis C

This occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hep C virus. Hep C can be a short-term illness, but if left untreated, infections can lead to chronic infection. Acute hepatitis C infection does not always become chronic. Some people clear HCV from their bodies after the acute phase, known as  Spontaneous Viral Clearance..

HCV responds well to antiviral therapy.

2. Chronic hepatitis C can be a lifelong infection and if Left untreated, chronic hep C can cause serious health conditions like liver damage or cancer, Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and even death. Chronic hepatitis C is usually comes as a silent infection for many years until the virus damages the liver enough to cause symptoms of liver disease.

chronic hepatitis C infection starts with an acute phase. HCV usually goes undiagnosed because it rarely causes symptoms.

How is hepatitis C spread?

HCV usually spreads when blood from infected person with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. It can commonly spread through organ transplants and blood transfusions.

Various Ways People Can Become Infected with the Hepatitis C Virus

  • Sharing needles, syringes to inject drugs.
  • Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C

In rare conditions, a person can get hepatitis C virus through

  • Sharing personal items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as toothbrushes and razors
  • Having sexual contact with someone who is infected with the hepatitis C virus
  • Getting a body piercing in an unhealthy setting

One cannot get HCV by hugging, sharing eating utensils, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water.

Risk factors of Hepatitis C

  • health care worker who has been exposed to HCV infected blood. This may happen if an infected needle pierces your skin.
  •  inhaling or injecting illicit drugs
  • Have HIV
  • Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean using unsterile equipment
  • Have HIV
  • Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time.
  • born to a woman with a HCV infection
  • If one has ever been in prison.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

1. Bruising or Bleeding Easily

2. Lack of appetite

3. Fatigue

4. Dark Coloured Urine

5. Yellow discoloration of the eyes (jaundice) and eyes

6. Itchy skin

7. Leg Swelling

8. Weight Loss

9. Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)

10 slurred speech or concussion

11. Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)

12. Drowsiness

13. Muscle Ache

complications of hepatitis C?

Without treatment, hepatitis C can lead to  this life threatening complications.

1. Liver Failure

Also known as end-stage liver disease, progresses over months, years, or even decades. At this stage, the liver can no longer function well or replace damaged cells.

2. Cirrhosis

Health condition in which the liver slowly breaks down and is unable to function well. Cirrhosis causes the Scar tissue to replace healthy liver tissue and partially blocks blood from flowing through the liver.

3. Liver Cancer

Chronic hepatitis C increases your chance of developing liver cancer. If chronic hepatitis C causes cirrhosis or severe liver damage before you receive treatment, you will still have an increased chance of liver cancer even after treatment.

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Treatments For Hepatitis C

1. Antiviral Medications

Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications which helps to clear the virus from the body.

The length of treatments and choice of medications depends on the hepatitis C genotype and presence of existing liver damage.

Your doctor will monitor your response to medications throughout treatment.

2. Liver Transplant

In the presence of serious complications from chronic hepatitis C infection, liver transplantation may be the next option.  liver transplantation, is a process where the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver.

3. Vaccinations

HCV does not have any known vaccine, but your doctor will likely recommend that you receive vaccines against hepatitis A and B viruses. These are separate viruses that can also complicate the course of chronic hepatitis C.

 

During the course of HCV treatment, there are some things you can do to help limit any damage to your liver and prevent the infection from spreading to others.

These can include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Stop smoking
  • Eating healthy diet
  • Limit Alcohol Intake
  • Don’t share personal items such as toothbrushes, shaving sticks or razors with anyone.
  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes with others.

Prevention of Hepatitis Virus

Prevention Methods recommended by WHO:

  • Safe and appropriate use of health care injections.
  • Safe disposal of sharp objects or waste.
  • Prevention of Blood Exposure During Sex.
  • Testing of donated blood for HCV, HBV, HIV and syphilis
  • Effective Training of health personnel.
  • Promotion of correct and consistent use of condoms

For people who are already infected with hepatitis C virus, WHO recommends:

  • Education and counseling on care and treatment
  • Early and appropriate medical treatment including antiviral therapy
  • Regular monitoring for early diagnosis of chronic liver disease.
  • Immunization with the hep A and B vaccines to protect their liver and prevent coinfection from these hepatitis viruses.
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