An Insight on Hepatitis C: Symptoms, Treatment and Diagnosis

Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver. It happens after getting contracted the hepatitis C virus.

Globally, an estimated 58 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection, with about 1.5 million new infections occurring each year.

The virus is bloodborne, which means that you can only contract or transmit it through the blood that carries the virus.

Hepatitis C can be either chronic or acute:

  • Chronic hepatitis C means one that develops over months or years. You may not notice the symptoms until it becomes severe.
  • Acute hepatitis C doesn’t involve any symptoms. Any of the symptoms patients notice may appear within a week or two after exposure. They could clear up on their own in just a few weeks.

In the US, hepatitis C numbers are among the most common hepatitis along with hepatitis A and B.

Vaccines for A and B are available that can help prevent the diseases, but for C there’s still no vaccine available.

If you leave hepatitis C untreated, it could result in many life-threatening health complications, including:

  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure
  • Cirrhosis

For most of the time, you can cure hepatitis C. Getting treated and tested promptly can help to reduce your chances of liver failure and severe symptoms.

Symptoms of hepatitis C

Not everyone with hepatitis C virus tends to experience symptoms. About 80% of people do not notice any signs of illness when they first contract the virus. Symptoms that develop may vary, depending on whether you have a chronic or acute form of the condition.

Acute hepatitis C

Acute infections occur within six months of a person who contracts with the virus. The symptoms could show up between 2 and 12 weeks after exposure to the virus.

Symptoms you might experience include:

  • Jaundice
  • Pale or gray stools
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain or nausea
  • Joint pain
  • Lingering fatigue
  • Fever

Chronic hepatitis C

If your body doesn’t clear the hepatitis C virus, acute hepatitis C becomes chronic. People who contract hepatitis C will eventually develop chronic hepatitis C.

The chronic form of hepatitis C doesn’t go away in itself. It lacks treatment that can make symptoms worse. These symptoms can show long-term health consequences. They could also lead to permanent liver cancer and liver damage.

Signs of chronic hepatitis C include:

  • Mood changes
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Muscle and joint pains and aches
  • A general feeling of unwellness
  • Persistent tiredness
  • Trouble to concentrate or remember things

Signs of contracting hepatitis C

The virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. In other words, someone with hepatitis may transmit the virus to you if their blood comes into contact with yours. It can happen as a result of:

  • Getting piercing or tattoo with nonsterile equipment
  • Sexual contact
  • Childbirth
  • Sharing needles
  • Sharing items like toothbrushes or razors
  • Organ transplants

Treatment of hepatitis C

Not everyone with hepatitis C requires treatment. Your immune system may fight the infection well enough to clear the virus from your body. If your immune system doesn’t clear the infections, medications usually work well to treat the conditions.

Diagnosis of hepatitis C

Symptoms alone usually do not offer enough information for a doctor to diagnose hepatitis C. You might not have noticed, symptoms or any signs of the condition. It is why it is crucial to connect with a doctor or other healthcare professional and ask about getting tested if you are exposed to the hepatitis C virus.

The CDC also recommends hepatitis C testing for people with abnormal liver tests, along with those who are:

A healthcare professional can order a few different tests to help diagnose hepatitis C. These include:

  • Liver biopsy
  • Liver function test
  • Genotype test
  • Blood tests

Possible complications of hepatitis C

One major complication of acute hepatitis is that it could be chronic. If you go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, you could experience many health complications, including:

  • Liver failure
  • Liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis

If you believe you have come in contact with the hepatitis C virus, the next best step is to reach out to a healthcare professional. It can help you lower down the treatment risks for experiencing major complications.

Conclusion

You can contract hepatitis C through blood-to-blood contact with someone who has the virus. While your body may clear acute hepatitis C without treatment, hepatitis C tends to develop into a chronic condition. If you are more likely to contract hepatitis C than the general population, regular hepatitis C screenings can help you get early treatment and diagnosis.

Get the treatment soon in case hepatitis C becomes chronic. It may lead to complications like severe liver failure and liver damage.

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