What is Hepatitis C? Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatis C virus (HCV), a fluid-born virus transmitted when one individual comes into contact with fluid or secretions from someone who is already infected. It has, for the most part, few notable symptoms so it is often passed from host to host before there can be a diagnosis. This makes the virus difficult to control.
There are, however, some symptoms that are key indicators of an HCV infection. They are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Liver pain
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
You may have noticed that many of the symptoms of HCV mirror those experienced with the flu. So, let’s look at some of the risk factors that may make an individual more susceptible to HCV.
Your risk of hep C infection is increased if you:
- Are a healthcare worker who has been exposed to infected blood, which may happen if an infected needle pierces your skin
- Have ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
- Have HIV
- Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
- Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection
- Were ever in prison
- Were born between 1945 and 1965, the age group with the highest incidence of hepatitis C infection1
If you experience prolonged flu-like symptoms and are among one of the high-risk groups, you should consult a physician. You may have the flu, but there is also the chance that you have hepatitis C. Left undiagnosed and/or untreated, HCV can lead to severe liver scarring, liver cancer and liver failure.
HCV Treatment Options
A diagnosis of HCV is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is not the end of the world. Around the world, patients are regaining their health thanks to antiviral medications that clear the body of the virus. The treatment itself is arduous, but outcomes are favourable.
In a worst-case scenario, liver transplant is an option. However, “in most cases, a liver transplant alone doesn't cure hepatitis C. The infection is likely to return, requiring treatment with antiviral medication to prevent damage to the transplanted liver. Several studies have demonstrated that new, direct-acting antiviral medication regimens are effective at curing post-transplant hepatitis C. At the same time, treatment with direct-acting antivirals can be achieved in appropriately selected patients before liver transplantation.”2
Now that you know a little more about the hepatitis C virus and its impact on the body, you are more prepared to minimize your exposure and, if exposed, identify some symptoms.
Like many viruses transmitted via fluids, prevention is key. Avoid lifestyles that put you at high risk. Bear in mind the symptoms and act quickly for an early diagnosis if you think you may have contracted the disease.