Getting Tested Is The Only Way To Know If You Have Hepatitis C
A blood test called a hepatitis C antibody test can tell if you have been infected with the hepatitis C viruseither recently or in the past. If you have a positive antibody test, another blood test is needed to tell if you are still infected or if you were infected in the past and cleared the virus on your own.
- Are 18 years of age and older
- Are pregnant
- Currently inject drugs
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have HIV
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
Cost Of Hepatitis C Medicines
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be costly. Most government and private health insurance prescription drug plans provide some coverage for these medicines. Talk with your doctor about your health insurance coverage for hepatitis C medicines.
Drug companies, nonprofit organizations, and some states offer programs that can help pay for hepatitis C medicines. If you need help paying for medicines, talk with your doctor. Learn more about financial help for hepatitis C medicines.
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented Or Avoided
The only way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid coming in contact with an infected persons blood. Always have protected sex . Dont do intravenous drugs. Dont share personal care items with a person who has hepatitis C. If youre a health care worker, follow your workplaces standard safety practices.
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Hepatitis C And Injecting Drugs
If you inject drugs, avoid sharing needles, syringes or other equipment such as tourniquets, spoons, swabs or water.
Where possible, always use sterile needles and syringes. These are available free of charge from needle and syringe programs and some pharmacists. To find out where you can obtain free needles, syringes and other injecting equipment, contact DirectLine
Try to wash your hands before and after injecting. If you cant do this, use hand sanitiser or alcohol swabs from a needle and syringe program service.
The Evolution Of Hepatitis C Treatment
Hepatitis C has been around for a long time. Even before the development of these new treatments, between 15 to 25 percent of individuals infected with HCV did not become chronically infected. Their bodies were able to clear the virus on their own. However, until relatively recently there were few effective treatment options for hepatitis C.
Historically the major treatment regimen was a long course of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. However, these treatments have significant problems. They show an only moderate ability to get rid of the virus and they have significant side effects. For example, one study found that as many as a quarter of people taking interferon developed major depressive episodes due to the treatment regimen.
In addition, those drugs were contraindicated in individuals with advanced liver or kidney disease. That meant that many people with hepatitis C weren’t even eligible to take them.
Interferon and ribavirin were also least effective against the most common types of hepatitis C. Genotype 1 was historically difficult to treat with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The treatment regimen worked slightly better with genotypes 2 and 3, but those types were also less common.
The combination of poor efficacy and high intolerance were driving forces for the development of interferon-free methods of hepatitis C treatment. These drugs are known as direct acting antivirals . It’s DAAs that have led to hepatitis C being considered curable.
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Local Impact Of Hepatitis C And Chronic Liver Disease
Hepatitis C is one of the most common liverdiseases in the U.S. and the Western world. An estimated 2.4 million peoplelive with the disease, and approximately 70% to 85% of cases are consideredchronic. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 400,000 patientsdied from hepatitis C in 2016, mostly due to cirrhosis and HCC.
Texas has a high volume of aging patientswho are living with hepatitis C. Many were infected in the 1980s or 1990s, andthe infection can lie dormant for 25 years or longer before it begins to damagethe liver. Texas is home to many people of Hispanicdescent. Individuals with this ethnicity are at up to double the risk of developing infection-related cancers, such as livercancer. Other factors for the high rates ofliver cancer in Texas include a prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and a highrate of alcohol use.
‘At UT Southwestern, we are well equipped to treat the potential complications of Hepatitis C including cirrhosis or liver cancer. We have a multidisciplinary liver cancer program that offers cutting edge treatment options and compassionate care as well as a large and robust liver transplantation program.’
Amit G. Singal, M.D.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with an acute hepatitis C infection may have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you most likely will have no symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
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How Common Is Hepatitis C In The United States
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood.14
Researchers estimate that about 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.13 Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have this infection.
Since 2006, the number of new hepatitis C infections has been rising, especially among people younger than age 30 who inject heroin or misuse prescription opioids and inject them.15,16
New screening efforts and more effective hepatitis C treatments are helping doctors identify and cure more people with the disease. With more screening and treatment, hepatitis C may become less common in the future. Researchers estimate that hepatitis C could be a rare disease in the United States by 2036.17
Ive Never Used Iv Drugs Or Been Stuck With A Dirty Needle How Did I Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. It can also be transmitted by needles used for tattooing or body piercing. In rare cases, hepatitis C can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. This virus can be transmitted through sex and sharing razors or toothbrushes. These occurrences are also rare. Many times, the cause of hepatitis C is never found.
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Medically Reviewed By Dr Gerardo Sison Pharmd
Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D., is a registered pharmacist who has worked in clinical and retail settings providing drug education for healthcare professionals and patients alike. He graduated Cum Laude from the University of Florida where he earned a Doctorate of Pharmacy . He piloted a longitudinal clinical research program and completed his clinical internship at St. Josephs Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Read More > >
How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed
Your doctor will determine if you have hepatitis C by using a blood test. The test is called the Hepatitis C Antibody Test. The test checks your blood for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. If antibodies are detected, it means you have been exposed to hepatitis C. If your viral load is positive, it means you are currently actively infected with hepatitis C. A negative test means that you do not have hepatitis C antibodies and likely do not have hepatitis C.
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Hepatitis C And Health
How can health-care personnel avoid exposure to HCV?
Avoiding occupational exposure to blood is the primary way to prevent transmission of bloodborne illnesses among health-care personnel. To promote blood safety in the workplace, health-care personnel should consult infectious-disease control guidance from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and from CDC. Depending on the medical procedure involved, Standard Precautions may include the appropriate use of personal protective equipment .
What is the risk of acquiring hepatitis C after being accidentally exposed to HCV-contaminated blood or body fluids in the workplace?
Although sharps injuries have decreased in recent decades due to improved prevention measures, they continue to occur, placing health-care personnel at risk for several bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis C. A recent analysis of several studies revealed an overall 0.2% risk for infection among those exposed to HCV-antibody-positive blood through needlestick or sharps injuries . Updated guidelines for management and treatment of hepatitis Cexternal icon are available to provide guidance for health-care personnel who become infected via exposure to contaminated blood at the workplace.
Other than needlesticks, do other exposures place health-care personnel at risk for hepatitis C?
Should HCV-infected health-care personnel be restricted in their work?
What Causes Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is caused by infection with the hepatitis C virus. The virus is spread from person to person through contact with blood. People who use intravenous drugs can get hepatitis C when they share needles with someone who has the virus. Health care workers can be exposed to hepatitis C. They can become infected if they are accidentally stuck with a needle that was used on an infected patient. You are also at a higher risk if you got a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before 1992.
Hepatitis C cant be spread unless a person has direct contact with infected blood. This means a person who has hepatitis C cannot pass the virus to others through casual contact such as:
- using public toilets
- touching doorknobs
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It’s Different Than Hepatitis A And B
Each form of hepatitis has its own specific virus that spreads and is treated differently. “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver, or that the virus has an affinity for hurting the liver,” Reau says.
- Hepatitis A is an acute, short-term infection that often does not require treatment.
- Hepatitis B hides deep in the body and, like hepatitis C, is treated in a variety of ways, from antiviral medications to liver transplants.
“The viruses are different, but all of them should be taken very seriously since they can lead to significant liver disease and even death,” she adds.
How Is Acute Hepatitis B Treated
Acute hepatitis B doesnt always require treatment. In most cases, a doctor will recommend monitoring your symptoms and getting regular blood tests to determine whether the virus is still in your body.
While you recover, allow your body to rest and drink plenty of fluids to help your body fight off the infection. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen , to help with any abdominal pain you have.
See a doctor if your symptoms are severe or seem to be getting worse. You may need to take a prescription antiviral medication to avoid potential liver damage.
Like acute hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis B may not require medical treatment to avoid permanent liver damage. In some patients, monitoring symptoms and getting regular liver tests is appropriate.
Treatment generally involves antiviral medications, such as:
- peginterferon alfa-2a injections
- antiviral tablets, such as tenofovir or entecavir
Antiviral medications can help to reduce symptoms and prevent liver damage. But they rarely completely get rid of the hepatitis B virus. Instead, the goal of treatment is to have the lowest viral load possible. Viral load refers to the amount of a virus in a blood sample.
Theres no cure for hepatitis B, but the condition is easily preventable by taking a few precautions. Hepatitis B is often spread through sexual contact, shared needles, and accidental needle sticks.
You can reduce your risk of developing hepatitis B or spreading the virus to others by:
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The Hepatitis B Vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is one of the most effective ways to prevent hepatitis B. Its usually divided into three doses, which are given over the course of six months. In many countries, infants receive their first dose of the vaccine at birth.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all children under the age of 19 be vaccinated if they havent already received the vaccination. Adults can also get the hepatitis B vaccine, and its generally recommended if you have an increased risk of infection due to:
- traveling to or living in a region where hepatitis B is common
- being sexually active with more than one partner
- working in a medical setting
- using intravenous drugs
If youve been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and havent been vaccinated, try to see a doctor right away. They can administer the first dose of the vaccine, though youll need to follow up to receive the remaining doses over the next few months.
They can also prescribe a medication called
You May Need Treatment Even If You Have No Symptoms
Its not uncommon to have hepatitis C and have no symptoms, but you should still see your doctor to determine if you need treatment.
Just because youre not sick doesnt mean you dont have hep C, says Stacey Rizza, MD, an infectious disease physician and a professor of medicine with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Its really important to get treated before it does any serious harm to the body.
Baby boomers account for a fair number of all newly reported cases of hepatitis C, according to the CDC, but a large proportion of them dont even know they have it, because they havent been tested, they dont have symptoms, or both.
We worry about progressive liver disease in that group because theyve often had it for a long time unknowingly and it has allowed time for their liver to become increasingly damaged, says Sherilyn C. Brinkley, a certified registered nurse practitioner and the program manager of the Johns Hopkins Viral Hepatitis Center in Baltimore.
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Could I Give Hepatitis C To Someone Else
Yes, once you have hepatitis C, you can always give it to someone else. If you have hepatitis C, you cannot donate blood. You should avoid sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes. It is very rare to pass hepatitis C in these ways, but it can happen. Always use a condom when you have sex. If you have hepatitis C, your sexual partners should be tested to see if they also have it.
Talk to your doctor first if you want to have children. The virus isnt spread easily from a mother to her unborn baby. But it is possible, so you need to take precautions. However, if youre trying to have a baby, do not have sex during your menstrual cycle. The hepatitis C virus spreads more easily in menstrual blood.
Tips For Avoiding Reinfection
The best way to prevent reinfection is to avoid contact with blood containing the virus. That means not sharing needles and syringes, and not engaging in sex without a condom or other barrier method.
Injection drug use is one of the main ways hepatitis C reinfections occur. Stopping the use of these drugs can reduce exposure to the virus.
Opioid agonist therapy is a treatment that helps people stop taking heroin and other opioid drugs by preventing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings. This treatment might also lower the risk of hepatitis C reinfection.
For people who do use injected drugs, a syringe services program or needle exchange program can provide clean needles and syringes. These community-based programs also offer hepatitis C screening and refer people to substance use disorder treatment programs.
Untreated depression and other mental health issues can sometimes lead people to engage in behaviors such as sex without a condom or other barrier method as well as drug use. A mental healthcare professional can offer healthy ways to cope with lifes stressors.
Practicing safer sex practices is another way to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted hepatitis C infection. Use a barrier method like condoms every time you have sex.
Routine hepatitis testing is recommended for people who have had a hepatitis C infection and for those who inject drugs. People who test positive and get prompt treatment can reduce their chances of developing liver disease and liver cancer.
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What Is Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a general term for inflammation of the liver. Normally, the liver breaks down waste products in your blood. But when the liver is inflamed, it doesnt do a good job of getting rid of waste products. This causes waste products to build up in your blood and tissues.
Many different things can cause hepatitis. The most common cause of hepatitis is infection with one of the 5 hepatitis viruses . Other things that can cause hepatitis include:
- Lack of blood supply to the liver.
- Taking certain medicines.
Less commonly, viral infections such as mononucleosis or cytomegalovirus can cause hepatitis.
There are 2 main kinds of hepatitis: acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis . Most people get over the acute inflammation in a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes, however, the inflammation doesnt go away. When the inflammation doesnt go away in 6 months, the person has chronic hepatitis.
Is There A Cure
Though there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, treatments can reduce the viral load to undetectable levels which is considered cured or in remission.
The virus is considered cured when it is not detected in your blood 12 weeks after treatment is completed. This is otherwise known as a sustained virologic response .
Hepatitis C is one of the most serious hepatitis viruses. However, with newer treatments developed over the past few years, the virus is much more manageable than it was in the past.
Current antiviral drugs that help cure hepatitis C may also help prevent the health complications of chronic liver disease.
The reports less than half of people who contract the hepatitis C virus may clear it from their bodies without treatment. For this group of people, the virus will be a short-term acute condition that goes away without treatment.
But for most people, acute hepatitis C will likely develop into a chronic condition that requires treatment.
Since the virus often doesnt produce symptoms until after more significant liver damage occurs, its important to get tested for hepatitis C if you think you might have been exposed.
approved the antiviral drug Mavyret for an 8-week treatment period for people with all genotypes of hepatitis C.
This treatment is now being used for many people instead of the 12-week treatment that was previously required.
Noninvasive ways to test for liver damage caused by hepatitis C are also now available to aid in diagnosis.
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