Hepatitis C – Conditions

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Overview

Hepatitis C is a liver infection that occurs due to the hepatitis C virus. It is transmitted from one person to the next by contaminated blood. Symptoms can range from a minor infection to a serious, long-term condition. It can be classified as “acute,” which refers to a new infection, or “chronic,” which refers to a long-term condition.

Acute hepatitis C develops within the first six months of infection with the hepatitis C virus. It can be a short-term sickness, but most people develop a chronic infection after an infection.

If untreated, chronic hepatitis C can be a lifetime. It is a dangerous infection that can cause liver damage, cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver cancer, and even death if left untreated.

In the United States, nearly 2.4 million people have been diagnosed with this condition. Many people who are infected with the virus, on the other hand, are completely unaware that they are ill.

Because of new drugs, chronic hepatitis C can now be treated. Despite the fact that there is no vaccine to prevent it, people can reduce their risk by making lifestyle changes.

Causes

HCV that transmits through blood causes hepatitis C. The most commonly found transmission routes are as follows:

·         Sharing of injection, reuse, or insufficient sterilization of medical equipment.

·         Transfusion of blood and sexual practices that result in blood exposure.

·         Organ transplant can also cause the transmission of the virus.

·         Tattoo or piercing if done with non-sterilized equipment also aids in virus transmission.

HCV can also be transmitted from a mother to child during childbirth; however, these are less common mechanisms of transmission than the ones described above.

Hepatitis C cannot be passed through breast milk, food, or water, nor through unintentional contact with an infected person (like kissing, hugging, or sharing food/drinks).

Symptoms

HCV symptoms can appear anywhere between two weeks and six months after infection. After the early infection, about 80% of the population does not show any signs or symptoms of the disease for several months. Flu-like symptoms such as high fever, exhaustion, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort are all common signs of acute illness. Dark urine, joint pain, grey-colored feces, and jaundice are also indicative of this infection. Yellowing of the skin, as well as whites of the eyes, are also signs of acute illness.

A “silent” infection can go unnoticed for years before the virus has destroyed enough liver tissue to cause symptoms of liver disease. Acute hepatitis C infection is the first stage of any chronic infection and can occur at any time. It is common for acute hepatitis C to be misdiagnosed due to the lack of obvious symptoms. Acute symptoms appear 1-3 months after virus exposure and last for 2-3 months.

Other signs and symptoms of this condition include:

·         Edema (fluid buildup in legs)

·         Gallstones

·         Easy bleeding

·         Muscle loss

·         Spider-like veins

·         Vomiting blood as a result of bleeding in the esophagus

·         Weight loss

Diagnosis

Your medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests are used to get a diagnosis of Hep C. Additional testing to determine whether you have liver damage may be required. Additional blood tests, a liver ultrasound, and a liver biopsy are among the diagnostic options that can be performed.

The following tests are also used to diagnose HCV:

Anti-HCV antibodies: Antibodies against HCV are proteins produced by your body when it identifies the infection in your circulation. They usually start to show up 12 weeks following infection.

The findings are usually available within a few days to a week, while some facilities provide a shorter turnaround time.

A positive test result means you have reactive antibodies to hepatitis C and have been infected at some point.

If you have a positive antibody test, you will be given the HCV RNA test.

HCV RNA: It determines the number of viral RNA particles in your circulation that occur 1-2 weeks after the infection with the virus.

Liver function test: The test looks at protein as well as enzyme levels in the blood, which generally increase 7 to 8 weeks after infection. Enzymes begin to flow into your bloodstream as your liver becomes damaged. Even if your enzyme levels are normal, it is possible that you have Hepatitis C.

Liver biopsy: It entails introducing a small needle into the wall of the abdomen to obtain a liver tissue sample for the laboratory examination.

Magnetic resonance imaging: MRE creates a visual map of stiffness gradients across the liver. The development of stiff liver tissue in the liver indicates the existence of liver scarring (fibrosis) because of chronic hepatitis C.

Treatment

Medication: the infection can be treated with antiviral drugs, which aid in the elimination of the virus from your body. The ultimate goal of treatment is to get rid of the traces of the virus in the body for at least 12 weeks after you end treatment. The emergence of new antiviral drugs has enabled recent advancements in the treatment of hepatitis C. Your care team throughout your therapy will constantly monitor your response to drugs.

Liver Transplant: It is possible that liver transplantation will be an effective treatment option in your case of persistent hepatitis C infection and severe symptoms. After removing your diseased liver, the surgeon will replace it with a healthy liver obtained from a deceased donor during the course of the procedure. Because only a small number of living donors are willing to donate a piece of their liver tissue, the vast majority of liver transplants are carried out on deceased donors.

A single liver transplantation procedure is rarely enough to cure hepatitis C. Antiviral medication is necessary to avoid further liver damage following the transplant due to the high chance of the infection returning.

When to See a doctor

Immediately consult your physician in case you have a risk of hepatitis C. If the signs and symptoms of hepatitis C become notable, immediately seek medical help. It is important to get diagnosed for early treatment since the condition may result in adverse consequences including liver failure.


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