HEPATITIS C, CAUSES, SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT

June 3, 2019 by 0

                            WHAT IS HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that is caused by a virus and spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Some people can have hepatitis C for years without feeling sick, or may just have minor symptoms.

If the infection is not treated, it can cause the liver to swell and become inflamed. Over time, this can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and possibly liver failure. As the disease develops, symptoms of liver damage may appear

Types of hepatitis C

There are two types of hepatitis C infection:

  • Acute: a short-term infection that occurs within 6 months after a person is exposed to the virus. However, about 75 to 85 percent of people with the acute form go on to develop the chronic form.
  • Chronic: a long-term illness that can continue throughout a person’s life. It can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and other serious problems, such as liver failure or cancer. About 15,000 people a year die from liver disease associated with hepatitis C.

What causes hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is caused when blood from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. These are the most common methods of infection:

  • An infected person shares needles or syringes for injecting intravenous (IV) drugs. Even people who have used IV drugs frequently may be at risk for infection.
  • Healthcare workers who accidentally stick themselves with needles used on infected patients are at risk of getting hepatitis C.
  • Patients who received donated blood or blood products or who had organ transplants before 1992 are at higher risk for hepatitis C.

Less common ways of spreading hepatitis C include the following:

  • Sexual contact with an infected person. Although the risk of getting hepatitis C through sexual intercourse is low, the risk increases for people who have several sex partners or those with HIV infections.
  • Sharing a razor, toothbrush or other personal item that may have come into contact with the blood of an infected person.
  • Becoming infected through body piercing or tattooing, if the facility does not use sterile equipment or does not follow infection control practices.
  • Babies born to mothers who have hepatitis C might become infected, although this is not common.

                         Symptoms

  • flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, fever and aches and pains
  • feeling and/or being sick
  • loss of weight/appetite
  • itchy skin
  • tummy (abdominal) pain
  • mental confusion (often called ‘brain fog’) and depression – these are specific to hepatitis C.

Acute hepatitis C infection doesn’t always become chronic, but if it does, you often don’t notice any symptoms until the virus has damaged the liver enough to cause the signs and symptoms of liver disease including:

  • bleeding and/or bruising easily
  • tiredness
  • loss of weight/appetite
  • jaundice, meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow
  • dark urine (pee)
  • Itchy skin
  • fluid build-up in your tummy (abdomen)
  • swollen legs
  • confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
  • spider-like blood vessels on your skin.

Prevention

  • Never share needles and syringes or other items that may be contaminated with infected blood, such as razors, toothbrushes, towels or manicure tools (even old or dried blood can contain the virus).
  • Only have tattoos, body piercings or acupuncture in a professional setting, and ensure that new, sterile needles are used.
  • Practice safer sex:

  • Know the status of any sexual partner.
  • Male (or external) or female (or internal) condoms and/or dental dams aren’t usually necessary to prevent hepatitis C for long-term heterosexual couples, but it’s a good idea to use them when having anal sex (in case there is minor bleeding), or if blood such as menstrual blood is present; or for sex with a new partner.
  • For men who have sex with men – use condoms, dental dams and latex gloves for anal sex, rimming, fingering and fisting.
  • If you’ve had unprotected sex, or you’re worried about hepatitis C or other STIs, get tested as soon as possible – even if you don’t have symptoms.

Major Difference Between Hepatitis B and C

  • The most significant difference between hepatitis B and hepatitis C is that people may get hepatitis B from the bodily fluids of an infected person.
  • Hepatitis C usually only spreads through blood-to-blood contact.
  • Neither hepatitis B nor C spreads through coughing, breast milk, or sharing food with or hugging an infected person.
  • Many people who have hepatitis do not become aware of it until the infection has advanced.
  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are both viral infections that attack the liver, and they have similar symptoms.
  • The most significant difference between hepatitis B and hepatitis C is that people may get hepatitis B from the bodily fluids of an infected person.
  • Hepatitis C usually only spreads through blood-to-blood contact.
  • Neither hepatitis B nor C spreads through coughing, breast milk, or sharing food with or hugging an infected person.
  • Many people who have hepatitis do not become aware of it until the infection has advanced.
  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are both viral infections that attack the liver, and they have similar symptoms.

                                             Treatment

The majority of people with hepatitis C don’t need treatment. However, you will need regular check-ups for three months to see if your body is fighting the virus.

For people who develop a chronic infection, there is treatment, and people with chronic infection do not necessarily develop liver damage.

If you’ve already got hepatitis C, it’s advisable to have the vaccination against hepatitis A and B to protect your liver from further damage.

Whether you have symptoms or not, don’t have sex until your healthcare professional says:

It’s usually possible to cure hepatitis C, but you’re not immune to future infections – which mean you can get it again. You can also still get other types of hepatitis, and having hepatitis C together with another type is more serious.

Ask your healthcare professional if you need further advice on how to protect yourself and your partner(s) from Hepatitis C and other STIs .

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