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Aug 2023

Everything you should to know about hepatitis C

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Aug 09, 2023

Hepatitis C is a contagious infection that causes inflammation and severe damage to the liver. This virus is highly contagious that spreads through blood to blood contacts. Hepatitis C is highly treatable if diagnosed early, but if left untreated it can cause liver failure and liver cancer.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is one of the most common hepatitis infections which is caused by the hepatitis C virus. This virus damages the liver tissue causing inflammation and swelling of the liver. It is a blood-borne infection that is only caused by blood to blood contact with an infected person. There are only two types of hepatitis:

  • Acute hepatitis C infection: Generally, this infection does not show any symptoms. The symptoms mainly appear within one or two weeks after exposure to the virus. However, the symptoms then go away on their own without any treatment.
  • Chronic hepatitis C infection: The symptoms of this type of infection usually take months or even years to appear. You can only experience symptoms when the infection becomes severe.

Most of the people living with hepatitis C do not even know that they have this infection until it causes severe symptoms. Untreated hepatitis C infection can cause serious health complications, such as cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C infection?

Hepatitis C infection can cause a range of mild to severe symptoms which lasts for about a few weeks. In fact, a recent study has shown that about 80 percent of people do not have any symptoms. And as this infection does not show any symptoms, it is more easily transmittable.

The symptoms usually depend on the stage of the condition. The symptoms of acute infection begin to appear within the six months after contracting the virus. The common symptoms of acute infection are:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Low appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool
  • Jaundice

All these symptoms are usually mild, which lasts for about a few weeks. In most cases, our immune systems can fight off the virus, which is why you may not need any specific treatment for hepatitis C infection.

On the other hand, if our immune system cannot fight off the virus, then an acute infection may become chronic infection which overtime causes serious liver conditions. According to a study, 50 to 80 percent of people having acute hepatitis, eventually develop chronic hepatitis C overtime.

The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C do go away on their own. And without any treatment, the symptoms get worse. The symptoms may badly impact your health in the long term, and may lead to liver damage and cancer. The common symptoms of hepatitis C may include:

  • Continuous tiredness
  • Always feeling unwell
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Trouble in concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Sometimes, all these symptoms may go away and then reappear. Apart from these symptoms, one can also experience symptoms of liver scarring and liver damage. The symptoms of liver scarring and damage may include:

  • Indigestion
  • Stomach ache
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Confusion
  • Trouble in concentrating and memorizing

Similar to the acute hepatitis c infection, chronic hepatitis may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, if you have experienced any of the symptoms and if you believe you have been exposed to the virus then consult with your doctor as soon as possible.

How do you get hepatitis C virus?

Hepatitis C virus spreads from blood to blood contact. In simple words, you may get the virus if you come in contact with the blood of an infected person. This can happen due to various reasons, such as:

  • Childbirth (Birthing parents can pass the virus to the baby)
  • Sexual contact (although it is uncommon, having multiple sex partners and anal intercourse increase the chances)
  • Organ transplant
  • Sharing needles
  • Sharing personal hygiene products (razors and toothbrushes)

One is more likely to get this virus if they:

  • were born by a mother who has hepatitis C
  • have a hepatitis C infected sexual partner
  • have had used non sterile needles
  • had received an organ transplant or blood transfusion before 1992.

Apart from all these, hepatitis C generally does not spread through saliva. One cannot get this virus by:

  • Touching
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Breast feeding
  • Sharing foods and drinks

How is hepatitis C diagnosed?

As one may not have any symptoms of hepatitis C, examining symptoms may not be the useful way to diagnose a hepatitis C condition. This is why you should get checked from a doctor if you believe that you had an exposure to the virus.

The Centers for disease control and prevention suggests hepatitis C testing if you have an abnormal liver test result, pregnant, HIV positive, and on hemodialysis. To detect a hepatitis C infection, your doctor may recommend Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Quantitative PCR test and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Qualitative PCR test. Along with all the hepatitis testing, they might also suggest liver function test, liver biopsy and genotype test.

If you have chronic hepatitis C infection then you need immediate medical treatment. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause severe health complications, and lead to liver scarring, liver failure and liver cancer as well.