What is Hepatitis C?symptoms, Stages of Hepatitis C, Causes And more
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection caused by virus. Which attacks the liver and causes inflammation. Most people infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) do not have any symptoms. In fact, most people do not know they are infected with hepatitis C until there is damage to their liver or it is discovered years later during medical testing.
Hepatitis C is one of several hepatitis viruses and is generally considered the most serious of these viruses. Hepatitis C is passed through contact with contaminated blood – most commonly through shared needles during the use of illicit drugs.
Stages of Hepatitis C :
How many stages are there in hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C has the following stages –
The first six months after infection are the acute phase of hepatitis. Early symptoms may include fatigue, loss of appetite, or mild yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). In most cases, symptoms resolve within a few weeks. If your immune system doesn’t resolve the problem on its own, the infection turns into a chronic phase. Due to the lack of symptoms, chronic hepatitis C may go undiagnosed for years. It is often diagnosed during a blood test that is done for other reasons.
In the chronic stage, symptoms may take years to appear. In this, inflammation of the liver is followed by death of liver cells. This can cause scarring and hardening of the liver tissue (cirrhosis). Up to 20 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C experience gradual liver damage over several years and develop cirrhosis of the liver within 15 to 20 years.
When permanent scar tissue replaces healthy liver cells, it is called cirrhosis. In this, the liver gets so many spots that it is unable to heal itself. This can cause a variety of health problems, such as fluid build-up in the stomach and bleeding from veins in the esophagus. When the liver fails to filter toxins they can pass into the bloodstream and harm brain activity. Some people with cirrhosis may develop liver cancer. This risk is higher in people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol.
Chronic hepatitis C can cause serious long-term health problems, such as liver failure, liver cancer, and death. End-stage hepatitis C occurs when the liver becomes severely damaged and cannot function properly. Symptoms may include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling and disorganized thinking. People with cirrhosis may suffer bleeding in the esophagus and may also suffer brain and nervous system damage.
The only treatment for liver disease is liver transplantation. Most transplant patients survive for five years, but unfortunately hepatitis C recurs in almost all of these patients.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C infection usually does not cause symptoms, especially until the infection is in the late chronic phase. In the early stage, which occurs one to three months after exposure to the virus, the following symptoms may occur –
- Nausea or loss of appetite.
- stomach pain.
- Dark colored urine.
- Yellowness of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Pain in muscles and joints.
Over time the following symptoms may also occur –
- Bleeding easily.
- Body turning blue.
- Itching in the skin.
- Accumulation of fluid in the stomach.
- Swelling in legs.
- Weight loss.
- Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech.
What are the causes of hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is caused by blood contact with someone who is infected. It can spread in the following ways –
- By organ transplantation.
- Due to bleeding.
- Sharing items like razors or toothbrushes.
- Sharing needles.
- Transmission of hepatitis C from an infected mother to her baby during birth.
- If there has been an exchange of blood through sexual contact.
What are the risk factors for hepatitis C?
The risk of hepatitis C infection increases if –
- You are a health care worker and you have been exposed to infected blood.
- Have you ever taken illegal drugs?
- You are infected with HIV.
- Have got body piercing or tattoo done through any contaminated equipment in an impure environment.
- You had received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.
- You received clotting factor concentrates before 1987.
- You have received hemodialysis treatment for a long time.
- Your mother has hepatitis C.
- You are born between the years 1945 and 1965 (these age groups have the highest incidence of hepatitis C infection).
How is hepatitis C treated?
There are the following treatment options for hepatitis C –
Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications, which aim to remove the virus from your body. The goal of treatment is for you to have no hepatitis C virus in your body for at least 12 weeks after treatment is completed.
Researchers have recently discovered new treatments for hepatitis C, and these drugs are sometimes given in combination with existing treatments. With this, people experience better results, fewer side effects and shorter treatment duration. The medications and length of treatment depend on the genotype of hepatitis C, existing liver damage, other medical history, and prior treatment.
If you have serious complications from hepatitis C infection, a liver transplant may be a treatment option. During a liver transplant, surgeons remove your damaged liver and replace it with a healthy one. Most transplanted livers are from deceased donors, although some living people also donate a part of their liver.
In most cases, a liver transplant alone does not cure hepatitis C. There is still a possibility of infection, which is why antiviral medication is required to prevent damage to the transplanted liver.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, so your doctor may recommend you get vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B viruses. These are also viruses that can damage the liver and cause complications in chronic hepatitis C.
Lifestyle changes and home remedies-
If you are diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor may advise you to make some lifestyle changes. These measures are as follows –
Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol speeds the progression of liver disease.
Do not take medicines that can cause liver damage. Consult your doctor about all your medications. Your doctor may advise you not to take certain medicines.
Do not let others come in contact with your blood. Cover any wounds you have and don’t share razors or toothbrushes.
Do not donate blood, body parts, or semen and tell health care workers that you are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Tell your partner about your infection before having sex and use a condom during intercourse