Everything You Need to Know About Hepatitis C


Hepatitis C is a type of hepatitis virus that attacks the liver. Hepatitis C is a viral illness that causes liver inflammation and, in severe cases, liver damage. Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease. It can result in cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmits from one person to another by blood contact.

Hepatitis C can cause acute or chronic disease. Acute hepatitis symptoms might persist for up to 6 months. However, in more than half of the cases, an acute infection turns chronic, indicating that the body cannot eliminate the virus.

Symptoms:

Hepatitis C symptoms can range from a mild disease that lasts a few weeks to a serious and persistent health issue.

People with hepatitis C who have no symptoms, especially in the acute stage, may be unaware that they have it. It increases chances of transmission to others.

  1. Acute Hepatitis C:

Acute infections develop within 6 months after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms might appear between 2 and 12 weeks following viral contact.

The acute symptoms are similar to those of other viral infections. These include:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine and clay-colored stool
  • Jaundice
  1. Chronic Hepatitis C:

If your body does not eliminate the hepatitis C virus, acute hepatitis C will progress to chronic hepatitis C.

It does not go away without treatment, and your symptoms may worsen if you do not seek treatment. These symptoms might impact infected person’s health for a long time.

Chronic hepatitis C symptoms include:

  • Continuous fatigue
  • Joint and muscular pain
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Changes in mood, including feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Difficulty focusing or remembering things

With chronic hepatitis C, you may also have symptoms of liver scarring such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Swelling in your legs and feet
  • Jaundice
  • Itching skin
  • Black urine
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and cognitive issues

How Do You Get Hepatitis C?

Blood-to-blood contact is the most common way for Hepatitis C to spread. It is very contagious, and the virus may survive outside the body for several weeks.

The disease can be spread by:

  • Sharing needles and syringes, especially while injecting drugs
  • Using unsterile medical and dental equipment
  • Transfusing unscreened blood and blood products
  • Using unsterilized body piercing equipment
  • Sharing infected razors, toothbrushes, or towels.

It can also transmit from one person to other sexually, particularly during anal intercourse or other sorts of sex that may involve blood. Sharing unclean or unprotected sex toys can also spread it.

Is It Infectious?

Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease that may be transmitted by direct contact with the blood of an infected person. But it is not infectious in the same way that the common cold or flu is. A person cannot get it by coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, kissing, touching, handshakes, or lactation.

Causes:

The hepatitis C virus is the cause of hepatitis C infection (HCV). When virus-infected blood enters the circulation of an uninfected person, the infection spreads.

HCV appears in a variety of genotypes across the world. It has seven different genotypes and over 67 subtypes recognized. Although chronic hepatitis C has a similar course regardless of viral genotype, treatment recommendations differ based on viral genotype.

Risk Factors:

Your chances of getting hepatitis C are higher if you:

  • Have sexual contact without barrier protection, especially rough or anal sex, which increases the likelihood of blood-to-blood contact
  • Share items that could come into contact with blood, such as toothbrushes or razors
  • Have invasive healthcare procedures, such as injections
  • Get a tattoo without safety precautions.

Complications:

Long-term Hepatitis C infection can result in serious complications such as:

  • Liver Scarring (Cirrhosis): Cirrhosis can develop after years of hepatitis C infection. Scarring in your liver makes it harder for it to function properly.
  • Cancer Of The Liver: A small percentage of individuals who have hepatitis C may develop liver cancer.
  • Liver Failure. Cirrhosis in its advanced stages might cause your liver to fail.

Treatment:

Direct-acting antiviral medications (DAAs) can treat most chronic and acute hepatitis C infections.

These drugs interfere with the reproduction of virus cells at various stages in the HCV life cycle.

  • Elbasvir/grazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • Peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys)
  • Ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni)
  • Glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Mavyret)
  • Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)

The drugs are generally well-tolerated, with the most prevalent adverse effects being a headache and tiredness. The genotype of the virus can help the doctor to decide the medicine and treatment duration.

Prevention:

Unfortunately, there is no hepatitis C vaccination available at this time.

The safest method to avoid contracting hepatitis C is to avoid utilizing any products that have come into touch with someone else’s blood.

This may be done by the followings:

  • Do not share toothbrushes or razors.
  • Do not share needles or syringes
  • Use condoms or other protection methods during sex
  • Have tattoos or piercings at approved facilities
  • Use gloves when cleaning or treating someone else’s wound

Diagnosis:

Hepatitis C may be diagnosed with simple blood tests:

  1. Hepatitis C Antibodies Blood Test:

First, the doctor conducts a Simple Blood Test to check for hepatitis C antibodies.

If you have hepatitis C exposure, your body will produce hepatitis C antibodies as part of its immunological response. Only if you have hepatitis C or have had it in the past, then your body will produce these antibodies. The hepatitis C antibody test can determine if you have the infection.

A positive test indicates that the person had exposure to the virus, but it does not necessarily prove that the person is still infected.

  1. Hepatitis C RNA Blood Test

If the antibody test is positive, the doctor may recommend a second blood test. It is a hepatitis C RNA test. It will determine if the virus is still in the blood.

  1. Hepatitis C Genotype Blood test:

A genotyping test can reveal whether a kind of hepatitis C virus is present. If the individual has had hepatitis C for a long time, the doctor may suggest further tests to screen for liver damage. They will also assess the degree of any existing damage and rule out other possible sources of damage.

References:

  1. Viral Hepatitis”. Retrieved from Cdc.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm
  2. Hepatitis C”. Retrieved from Who.int: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c
  1. “Hepatitis C Risk Factors”. Retrieved from Webmd.com: https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/risk-hepatitis-c
  2. Hepatitis C Virus”. Retrieved from Utah.edu: https://physicians.utah.edu/echo/clinical-support-areas/hepatitis-clinic
  3. Hepatitis C”. Retrieved from Umms.org: https://www.umms.org/ummc/health-services/liver/hepatitis-c