Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is very serious and it can have a lasting effect on the overall health of the infected person. It can lead to liver damage as well as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Unfortunately, most people don’t know they’re infected with Hepatitis C until they’ve already suffered some liver damage. The damaging effects of the disease may not show up for many years.
Hepatitis C is spread when a person comes into contact with the blood of an infected person. You cannot get the virus from hugging, kissing, coughing, or sharing utensils. You can get the disease if you had a blood transfusion prior to 1992 or if you received a tattoo or piercing with an infected needle. You can also get the disease from unprotected sex with multiple partners. Infected women run the risk of passing on the disease to their baby. The most common cause of the spread of Hepatitis C is through the sharing of needles. Intravenous drug users who reuse or share needles have the highest risk of contracting Hepatitis C.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
There are many symptoms that are typically present when someone is infected with Hep C. For example, an infected person will feel unusually tired. They may suffer from joint and stomach pain, itchy skin, and sore muscles. Most people will also have dark colored urine and they will become jaundiced, meaning their skin and the whites of their eyes will turn a yellow color. This is due to the build up of a yellow-brown pigment called bilirubin in the blood and skin.
Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C
There are two different forms of Hepatitis C: acute and chronic. In 2009, there were an estimated 16,000 acute Hepatitis C virus infections reported in the USA. An estimated 3.2 million people are living with chronic Hepatitis C. Unfortunately, around 75%-85% of people who are infected with acute Hep C will develop a chronic infection.
Acute Hepatitis C refers to the first six months of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some people will begin to show symptoms around six to seven weeks after being infected. Some people may show symptoms after only two weeks while others may have no symptoms until the six month period. Other people will never show any signs or symptoms of the Hep C virus. The virus can still be spread even if the infected person shows no signs of being infected.
Chronic Hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the person has the Hepatitis C virus in their body. The Hep C virus can last for a lifetime and it can cause many problems for the infected person, including liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Most people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed. In persons without symptoms, Hepatitis C is often detected during routine blood tests to measure liver function and liver enzyme levels. It can also be detected by screening when someone donates blood.
Treatment for Hepatitis C
Yes, acute Hepatitis C can be treated. An acute infection can clear up on its own without treatment in about 25% of people. An early diagnosis of acute Hep C does reduce the risk of the disease becoming a chronic infection. Acute Hep C is treated with the same medications as chronic Hep C. There are many FDA approved medications to treat Hepatitis C.
Contributed by Guest Blogger Kellie Moon