The hepatitis C virus is one of several viruses that can cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is a contagious viral disease that results in the inflammation of the liver and can lead to serious liver damage. It is caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The hep C virus spreads through contaminated blood. Also, it can be acute or chronic.
Acute infection is the period when you first contract the virus hepatitis C virus. The infection that may not be noticeable, because in most cases people do not feel sick. This phase can last up to six months. However, during this period, hepatitis C virus levels in the blood rises. Due to this, the body’s immune system starts to produce antibodies. This occurs in response to the presence of the hepatitis C virus.
Chronic hep C infection doesn’t mean that you have symptom. It means that the infection is ongoing whiles you are living with the virus. Acute hepatitis C infection doesn’t always become chronic. On average, people who contract hepatitis C will clear the virus naturally. Chronic hepatitis C can last for years and can result in serious health problems such as liver damage, liver cancer, liver failure or even death!
In addition to the effects on the liver it is now clear that HCV also causes a variety of other symptoms. Many people with chronic HCV feel absolutely normal and have no symptoms or problems at all. However, there are others who suffer from severe symptoms almost certainly related to the infection.
How do you get hepatitis C?
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact. These include:
- Illicit or injection drug use
- Transfusion of unscreened blood
- Tattoos and piercing using unsterilized instruments
- Organ transplant
- Unsafe injection practices
- Sharing razors, toothbrushes and similar items
Symptoms of hepatitis C infection
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Difficulty in completing complex mental tasks
- Always experiencing tiredness and fatigue
- Muscle soreness
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Bleeding and bruising easily
- Loss of appetite
- Dark-yellow urine
- Fluid build up in your abdomen (Ascites)
- Yellowish discoloration of eyes and skin (Jaundice)
Due to the fact that acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, few people are diagnosed during the acute phase. In those people who go on to develop chronic HCV infection, the infection is also often undiagnosed. This is because the infection remains asymptomatic until decades after infection when symptoms develop secondary to serious liver damage.
Screening for hepatitis C
Early diagnosis can prevent health problems. Also, it can prevent transmission of the virus. WHO recommends screening for people who may be at increased risk of infection. Populations at increased risk of HCV infection include:
- people who inject drugs;
- recipients of infected blood products
- invasive procedures in health-care facilities with inadequate infection control practices ;
- children born to mothers infected with HCV ;
- anyone with sexual partners who are HCV-infected;
- people with HIV infection;
- people who have had tattoos or piercings.
- Health care and emergency workers who have been exposed to blood or accidental needle sticks
However, after the screening and a test is positive, assessment of the degree of liver damage should be done. This can be done either by liver biopsy or through a variety of non-invasive tests.
Hepatitis C does not always require treatment. This is because, the immune response in some people will clear the infection. Moreover, some people with chronic infection do not develop liver damage. However, when treatment is necessary, the goal of hepatitis C treatment is cure. The cure rate depends on several factors such as; the strain of the virus and the type of treatment given. Antiviral medications to clear the virus from your body. These medicines stop the virus multiplying inside the body.
Due to the pace of research, recommendations for medications and treatment regimens are changing rapidly. It is therefore best to discuss your treatment options with a specialist.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Therefore prevention of HCV infection depends upon reducing the risk of exposure to the virus. Either in health-care settings and in higher risk populations such as people who inject drugs, and through sexual contact.
- hand hygiene: including surgical hand preparation, hand washing and use of gloves;
- safe and appropriate use of health care injections;
- safe handling and disposal of sharps and waste;
- testing of donated blood for hepatitis B and C (as well as HIV and syphilis);
- training of health personnel;
- promotion of correct and consistent use of condoms.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you receive a diagnosis of hepatitis C, your doctor will likely recommend certain lifestyle changes. These include measures such as;
- Stop drinking alcohol because, it speeds the progression of liver disease.
- Avoid medications that may cause liver damage. Review your medications with your doctor. Thus, either over-the-counter medications, herbal preparations and dietary supplements.
- Cover any wounds you have and don’t share razors or toothbrushes.
- Don’t donate blood, body organs or semen
- Advise health care workers that you have the virus.
- Also tell your partner about your infection before you have s3x
- Always use condoms during intercourse.
Chronic Hepatitis C can result in serious complications and organ damage such as;
- Cirrhosis (liver scarring)
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer