What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. If left untreated, it can eventually cause cirrhosis, increased risk of liver cancer, and liver failure. Some people have acute hepatitis C that can be overcome with natural defenses against infection or with medicine. Many others, however, suffer from chronic hepatitis C. Unfortunately, most infected people don’t realize there is something wrong for as long as 15 years after the initial infection.
Who is most at risk for Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is transmitted when the blood of an infected person enters another person. The most common way to transmit the disease is through shared needles. Many infected persons are believed to have contracted the disease as a result of a generational issue and general lack of knowledge about the disease before the disposable needles and proper sterilization was commonplace. The second most common way of being infected with hepatitis C is having received an organ transplant or a blood transfusion before 1992.
Why you should get screened for Hepatitis C
Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) are five times more likely to have contracted the disease than any other generation. An estimated 75% of people infected with hepatitis C are Baby Boomers. Because of the nature of hepatitis C, only 50% of infected people are diagnosed. As many as 30% of those untreated individuals go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver, which is a potentially fatal scarring of the liver.
In addition to generational risks, an increased risk of HCV infection includes:
- tattoos or piercings
- drug use
- HCV-infected sexual partners
- HIV infection
- received infected blood procedures from medical facilities with poor infection control
- children born to mothers with HCV
- prisoners previously incarcerated
What are the typical symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C progresses very slowly. It can go unnoticed in an infected individual for decades. Many chronic symptoms only arise as a result of severe liver damage over the years. That’s why it is important to get screened for Hepatitis C, especially if you were born between 1945 and 1965, or received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. The symptoms of severe liver damage caused by hepatitis C are:
- Jaundice (yellow skin)
- Dark Urine
- Sore Muscles
- Joint Pain
- Itchy Skin
TransSouth Hepatitis C Treatment
Your initial diagnosis will be from a liver enzyme test and a hepatitis c virus test. A combination of antiviral therapy is used to treat it.
Your treatment options for hepatitis c may vary because it depends on:
- The amount of damage inflicted on your liver
- The type of hepatitis C you have (genotype)
- The amount of hepatitis C virus that you have in your body.
- Other health conditions that you might have
The particular virus strain that you have influences how long your treatment will last, so you will need to speak to your doctor about what to expect when it comes to your treatment options.
Preventing Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine for this disease. If you are at risk for hepatitis C, you should practice good hand hygiene and wear gloves when applicable, especially if you are in the medical field or handling disposal of sharps and waste. Immunization with hepatitis A & B can assist in preventing infection in the liver. Make sure you get tested for the disease and talk to your doctor about regularly checking the condition of your liver over time.