Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause damage to the liver by inflammation, that can sometimes turn in to serious liver damage. This virus spreads through the bloodstream. The treatment for Hepatitis C has changed over the years. In the past, injections and oral medications that were given for treatment were not able to be successfully taken by the masses due to other health issues or the unknown and difficult side effects. Today, Hepatitis C is considered a curable virus with oral medications that are taken every day for two to six months.
Over half of the people infected with Hepatitis C do not know they have the virus because they exhibit no symptoms. Signs and symptoms could take months or years to finally show. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control have recommended a one-time screening blood test for anyone with an increased risk of infection. The group of people most likely to contract Hepatitis C are those born between 1945 and 1965, which is a group that has five times more likely of a chance to contract Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of Hepatitis C can differ from person to person. Chronic hepatitis has been labeled a ‘silent infection’ because it will cause damage to the liver for years without any signs or symptoms, and end with serious liver disease. Some of the signs and symptoms are:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
- Swelling in your legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)
Causes and Risk Factors with Hepatitis C
The causes and risk factors of Hepatitis C also vary between people. This infection spreads when blood that is contaminated with the virus enters the bloodstream of another uninfected person. Across the world, the Hepatitis C virus exists in many different forms. These forms are known as genotypes. The virus type that covers most of the United States is type one. Type two also exists in the United States, but not in the same numbers as type one.
The risk factors for contracting Hepatitis C increase if you:
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
- Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection
- Were ever in prison
- Were born between 1945 and 1965, the age group with the highest incidence of hepatitis C infection
- Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood, which may happen if an infected needle pierces your skin
- Have ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
- Have HIV
- Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Prevention of Hepatitis C
Prevention of Hepatitis C is not always possible, but you can take a certain number of precautions to help lower your risks. They are:
-Stop using illicit drugs, particularly if you inject them. If you use illicit drugs, seek help or consider going into a treatment program. In this day and age, drug addiction is very common.
-Be cautious about body piercing and tattooing. If you choose to undergo piercing or tattooing, look for a reputable shop. Ask questions beforehand about how the equipment is cleaned. Make sure the employees use sterile needles. If employees will not answer your questions, look for another shop without hesitation.
-Practice safer sex. Do not engage in having unprotected sex with multiple partners or with any partner whose health status is uncertain. Sexual transmission between monogamous couples may occur, but the risk is low. Take your sexual health and safety as seriously as you do your life.
Complications of Hepatitis C
Complications and future illnesses can arise from having Hepatitis C. In long-term, untreated cases, you might see:
-Scarring of the liver or cirrhosis. After 20 to 30 years of hepatitis C infection, cirrhosis may occur. Scarring in your liver makes it difficult for your liver to function.
-Liver cancer. A small number of people with hepatitis C infection may develop liver cancer.
-Liver failure. Advanced cirrhosis may cause your liver to stop functioning.
The Hepatitis C and Cancer Connection
The connection between having Hepatitis C and developing cancer of the liver is a growing statistical rate in the United States. Of the three million Americans that have Hep C, only five-percent develop this cancer. The more cirrhosis, or heavy scarring, that happens to the liver, the higher the chances are to develop cancer. Cirrhosis is a slow-growing scar formation that also triggers abnormal cell growth. Due to the fact that the Cirrhosis is a silent disease, these abnormal cells can grow with no notice for years before any signs appear.
Taking steps to reduce your risk of developing cirrhosis can help to lessen your risk for developing cancer in the future. Two of the top main reasons for the fast development and continued growth of cirrhosis is drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco products. There are also certain medications that should be avoided because they can also do damage to the liver. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen have all been linked in studies to liver damage. There are also some sleeping pills and tranquilizers that should be avoided for the same reason.
If you have Hepatitis C be sure to stay on top of your medical appointments and treatment prescribed by your doctors. If you have not yet gotten a diagnosis, but think you have contracted Hep C, do not wait to make your first appointment for testing and treatment. Early detection and treatment is key in regaining your health and overcoming this infection.