What You Can Do
All of these things can scare the heck out of you. They scared me when I was facing them. You can die from hepatitis C from fatal complications. My friend recently passed away, another victim of cirrhosis. They had eventually treated for hep C but too much damage was done. Sounds bleak, doesnt it? Here’s what to do: Get treated as quickly as you can and give your body tender love and care. Thats what Im doing anyway.
What Is Hepatitis C
- It is a contagious liver disease that damages the liver.
- It can be acute, lasting only a few weeks, in 15-25% of individuals, resulting in a mild illness.
- It can be chronic unless successfully treated, resulting in liver damage, cirrhosis , and liver cancer.
- It is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person.
People who have chronic HCV often have no symptoms and can live for many years without feeling sick.
Symptoms of acute HCV include fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice , and joint pain.
Symptoms of chronic HCV include jaundice, gastrointestinal bleeding, ascites , and mental changes .
Can Hepatitis C And Alcoholic Hepatitis Coexist
Hepatitis due to both HCV and alcohol abuse can coexist. According to a 2018 article, it is common for the two conditions to occur simultaneously.
Excessive alcohol consumption can accelerate and multiply the damage due to HCV, worsening liver cirrhosis. However, even small amounts of alcohol can exacerbate HCV. It may also interfere with HCV treatment by causing the virus to become resistant to medication.
Although both conditions are responsible for liver inflammation, there are differences in the symptoms of HCV and alcoholic hepatitis.
According to the World Health Organization , around of people with HCV show no symptoms after contracting the initial infection. They may not realize they have the virus until later if it becomes chronic and causes liver damage.
Individuals who do experience hepatitis C symptoms may develop:
- tenderness in the liver
- systemic inflammatory response syndrome, which involves fever, fast heart rate, and fast breathing
It is important to note that HCV is contagious. If a person is unsure if they have contracted the infection, they should take safety precautions to prevent others from coming into contact with their blood.
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On The Verge Of A Revolution
Dr. Kris Kowdley, director of the Liver Center of Excellence and the Digestive Disease Institute at Seattles Virginia Mason Medical Center, said these emerging therapies could break the backbone of interferon currently used to treat the disease.
In the 1990s, drugs on the market were only able to help 10 percent of all hepatitis patients, at most. In 2002, the rate was 40 percent. Within a year, Kowdley said, hepatitis patients may be treated and cured using an all-oral drug regimen more quickly and with fewer side effects.
Theres literally a revolution occurring right now in the world of hepatitis C, he said. The response rates have improved drastically.
Kowdley said that with new, highly effective treatments, a vaccine for hepatitis C may not be necessary.
We do have the capabilities within our grasp to completely eliminate this virus from the planet, he said.
Care about yourself, she said. Youre worth it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that all baby boomers undergo a one-time hepatitis screening, because the majority of new diagnoses are in patients born between 1945 and 1965.
We grew up in a different age. In the 60s and 70s, things were easier and more carefree, especially sexually, Martinez said. Its not something to be ashamed of.
Kowdley said a lack of symptoms shouldnt prevent people from getting tested for the virus. People should feel empowered to request testing, he said.
How Do I Know If I Am Infected With Viral Hepatitis
The number of new HBV and HCV infections has been declining in recent years, but the number of people living with chronic hepatitis infections is considerable, and deaths associated with untreated, chronic hepatitis infections have been on the rise. This is because most people dont know they are infected until the disease has begun to damage the liver, highlighting why screening for viral hepatitis is so important. People with a history of drug use are generally at higher risk, and should discuss their substance use with their health care provider.
Initial screening for HBV or HCV involves antibody tests, which show whether you have been exposed to the hepatitis virus, although not necessarily whether you are still infected. A positive antibody test should then be followed up with a test that measures the amount of virus in your blood. If this follow-up test is positive, then you should seek advice from a physician that specializes in viral hepatitis treatment. Because screening for hepatitis is so critical for linking people who test positive to the care they need, NIDA is studying new rapid HCV antibody tests that can be used in drug treatment settings.
The CDC recommends that people who inject drugs be tested for hepatitis B and C as part of routine medical care. To determine if you are at risk for contracting hepatitis, HHS has created an online assessment tool to help you find out.
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If You Notice Symptoms See A Doctor Right Away
Symptoms of hepatitis C include the following:
- Jaundice a yellowish tone to the eyes and skin
- Mild, chronic right belly pain
- Loss of appetite
If you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C or notice any symptoms, visit your primary care doctor as soon as possible. If you test positive for the virus, your doctor can refer you to a hepatologist to discuss your options.
“I strongly encourage all baby boomers and others who are at high risk to get tested, even if you don’t look or feel sick,” Reau says. “If you do have hepatitis C, the earlier we discover it, the more likely we can prevent it from progressing and causing more serious damage.”
What Happens When You Die
It is important that all of us with hepatitis C should be made aware of what happens to us in the event of our death, although it is unlikely for the majority of people with hepatitis C to actually die from any complications that arise from their infection.
However because hepatitis C is classified as an infectious disease there are a number of issues it is important for you and your family to be aware of.
In many cases your HCV+ status may not come to light or be declared when you pass away. People are not tested for hepatitis C as a matter of course when they die, but their status may either become apparent from the way they died for example, with end stage liver disease or, if you die of something unrelated or sudden for example a heart attack, then an autopsy will be required.
The autopsy might reveal liver damage in which case additional tests may be run to establish the cause of that. Your status may also be revealed by your medical records if they are examined in the course of determining the cause of death.
In some cases an actual diagnosis may not come until after death, given that many people living with hepatitis C are unaware that they have it.
Special arrangements by undertakers in dealing with infectious diseases
Irrespective of our state of health in life, all of us with hepatitis C will be treated with extreme caution by those who take care of us in death if our hepatitis C status is known to mortuary and/or undertaker staff.
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Baby Boomers Are Especially Vulnerable
“The hepatitis C virus didn’t have a name or a screening test until in 1989,” Reau says. “That means people born between 1945 and 1965, the group referred to as ‘baby boomers,’ are at highest risk of infection. They grew up before health care facilities started taking standard precautions, like not sharing vials of medicine among patients and requiring staff to wear gloves.”
The CDC reports that baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adults, accounting for 75% of those living with the disease.
These are some other reasons you may be at risk:
- You have engaged in high-risk behaviors like IV drug use or unprotected sex
- Your biological mother has/had hepatitis C
- You received blood transfusions, an organ transplant or dialysis before 1989
- You were or are currently incarcerated
How Do You Test For Hepatitis C
A simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have the virus. You may also be given an extra test to see if your liver is damaged.
If youve got hepatitis C you should be tested for other STIs. It’s important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have hepatitis C do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on. It can also stop you from getting the infection again.
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Viral Hepatitisa Very Real Consequence Of Substance Use
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by a variety of toxins , autoimmune conditions, or pathogens .1 Viral hepatitis is caused by a family of viruses labeled A, B, C, D, and E. To learn more about the route of transmission and prognosis for each virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Division of Viral Hepatitis. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the most common viral hepatitis infections transmitted through the sometimes risky behaviors of people who use drugsparticularly among people who inject drugs. An estimated 862,000 people are living with HBV chronic infections, with about 22,000 acute infections recorded in 2017. An estimated 2.4 million Americans are living with HCV based on 2013-2016 annual average, with an estimated 44,700 new cases of acute HCV in 2017. In fact, new cases of acute HCV have increased rapidly in the US since 2010, and have most often been associated with injection drug use.6 Three out of four people living with HCV are baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965.7
Hepatitis C Symptoms & Treatment
Hepatitis C is found in infected blood. It is also rarely found in semen and vaginal fluids.
Hepatitis C is mainly passed on through using contaminated needles and syringes or sharing other items with infected blood on them. It can also be passed on through unprotected sex, especially when blood is present.
You can prevent hepatitis C by never sharing needles and syringes, practising safer sex, and avoiding unlicensed tattoo parlours and acupuncturists.
Hepatitis C will often not have any noticeable symptoms, but a simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have hepatitis C.
In the early stages, some peoples bodies can clear a hepatitis C infection on their own, others may develop chronic hepatitis C and will need to take antiviral treatment to cure the infection.
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can lead to permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis C is part of a group of hepatitis viruses that attack the liver.
Its mainly passed on through contaminated needles, either from injecting drugs or from needle stick injuries in healthcare settings. It can also be transmitted sexually, especially during anal sex or other types of sex that may involve blood.
Some groups are more at risk of getting hepatitis C than others, including people who use drugs, people in prisons, men who have sex with men, health workers and people living with HIV.
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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.
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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How Do You Treat Hepatitis C
People with acute infection do not always need treatment, because their immune system may clear hepatitis C on its own. If you test positive during the acute stage, your doctor may ask you to come back after a few months to re-test and to see if you need any treatment.
If people develop chronic infection, they will need treatment to help clear the virus. Where available, treatment with drugs called direct-acting antivirals can cure hepatitis in most cases. These are usually taken for 8-12 weeks. Your doctor will also check your liver for any damage.
If youve had hepatitis C in the past, youre not immune to future infections which means you can get it again. You can also still get other types of hepatitis, and having hepatitis C together with another type is more serious.
If youve already had hepatitis C, its advisable to have the vaccination against hepatitis A and B to protect your liver from further damage.
Whether you have symptoms or not, dont have sex until your healthcare professional says you can.
Your Liver Will Only Get Worse
Yes, you feel fine, but your blood work and liver could suggest that all is not well. If your doctor is recommending anti-viral treatment, it could mean that there is already evidence of liver damage. Treatment can prevent this damage from spiraling out of control. Todays antiviral treatments can cure hepatitis C, if started early enough in the process.
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How Do You Get Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact.
Some ways the infection can be spread include:
- sharing unsterilised needles particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs
- sharing razors or toothbrushes
- from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
- through unprotected sex although this is very rare
In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past.
It’s estimated around half of those who inject drugs have the infection.
What Treatments Are Available For Viral Hepatitis
Many medications are available for the treatment of chronic HBV and HCV infection. For chronic HBV infection, there are several antiviral drugs. People who are chronically infected with HBV require consistent medical monitoring to ensure that the medications are keeping the virus in check and that the disease is not progressing to liver damage or cancer.
There are also antiviral medications available for HCV treatment and new treatments have been approved in recent years. Many antiviral HCV treatments can cure more than 90 percent of people who take them within 8 to 12 weeks. HCV treatment dramatically reduces deaths, and people who are cured are much less likely to develop cirrhosis or liver cancer. However, not everyone infected with HCV needs or can benefit from treatment. NIDA researchers have identified genes that are associated with spontaneous clearance of HCV. These genes also enable people who are unable to clear HCV on their own to respond more favorably to treatment medications. This new information can be used to determine which patients can benefit most from HCV treatment. More studies must be done, but this is a first step to personalized medicine for the treatment of HCV.
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How Is Alcoholic Hepatitis Treated
The goal of treatment is to restore some or all normal functioning to the liver.
You will need to stop drinking alcohol. To do thi, you may need to be in an alcohol treatment program. Sometimes you may also need to change your diet. Scarring of the liver is permanent. But the liver is often able to repair some of the damage caused by alcohol so you can live a normal life.
You may be admitted to the hospital or treated on an outpatient basis. There is no medicine to cure alcoholic hepatitis. Treatment involves easing the symptoms and keeping the disease from getting worse.
Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about recommended vaccines. These include vaccines for viruses that can cause liver disease.
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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