Articles On Hepatitis C
If you’ve just been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you may wonder how you got it and worry about passing on the virus to a loved one. If you’ve had the disease for a long time without knowing it, you could dwell on every little incident in the past where you might have accidentally exposed a family member to the disease.
It’s important to remember that hepatitis C isn’t easy to catch. If you take a few precautions, it’s almost impossible to pass on the disease to someone else.
Contagious And Incubation Periods
The incubation periodthe time it takes for symptoms to appear after the hepatitis C virus has entered your bodyis from 2 weeks to 6 months. But not all people have symptoms when they are first infected.
You can spread the virus to someone else at any time after you are infected, even if you don’t have symptoms.
How Do You Get Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is really contagious. Its transmitted through contact with semen , vaginal fluids, and blood. You can get it from:
having vaginal, anal, or oral sex
sharing toothbrushes and razors
sharing needles for shooting drugs, piercings, tattoos, etc.
getting stuck with a needle that has the Hep B virus on it.
Hepatitis B can also be passed to babies during birth if their mother has it.
Hepatitis B isnt spread through saliva , so you CANT get hepatitis B from sharing food or drinks or using the same fork or spoon. Hepatitis B is also not spread through kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding.
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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.
How Much Does Hepatitis C Treatment Cost
It is impossible to say what the exact cost is for the various regimens, but it is in the tens of thousands of dollars. In general, out of pocket cost would be very high for the average person, and most people are treated through a health insurer, federal health benefits, or veteran’s benefits. The cost of hepatitis C and the care of its complications, however, is much higher over a person’s lifetime, and the roughly estimated savings is believed to make treatment a good health and financial investment. Liver transplantation alone may cost several hundred thousand dollars for the procedure alone, followed by several hundred thousand for the medications needed in the first 6 months afterward.2 This does not include the many complications of liver transplantation.
Because negotiations are confidential business contracts, little is known about how much is actually paid for medical treatments by these drugs. One example is the medication sofosbuvir. Estimated costs for a standard 12-week treatment with sosobuvir was $84,000 in the US. Actual costs to individuals depend upon price contracts between pharmaceutical companies and health insurers, as well as government and private organizations. Thus, an individual with healthcare coverage may only pay a monthly co-pay.4
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How Does Hepatitis C Progress
When someone is first infected with hepatitis C, most likely they have no symptoms and are unaware. Occasionally people experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness or sometimes having a yellow color in their skin or eyes. Although having any symptoms at all is rare, if they do occur, they usually go away within a few weeks.
Around 15-25% of people who are infected will spontaneously fight off the virus on their own and they will not have a chronic hepatitis C infection and no long term damage occurs.
But around 75-85% of people will develop chronic infection. Most of the time, people with chronic hepatitis C have no symptoms at the time of infection and no symptoms for years or even decades of chronic infection. The virus will be with them until they are successfully treated with hepatitis C medications.
Around 10-20% of people with chronic infection will slowly have gradual damage in the liver over years and will eventually develop cirrhosis . This can take 20 years or more from the time of the initial infection.
Cirrhosis is the replacement of liver cells with permanent scar tissue. Cirrhosis can lead to problems such as bleeding from veins in the esophagus, fluid buildup in the belly, and damaged brain function.Approximately 15% of people with cirrhosis will develop liver cancer during their lifetime. Drinking excessively can double the chance of liver cancer in people infected with HCV.
How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed
Your doctor my suspect hepatitis A infection by your typical symptoms. A simple blood test can detect if you are infected with the hepatitis A virus. The test detects an antibody against the virus which you make when you are first infected.
A different antibody persists long-term after the infection has cleared. This antibody keeps you immune from future infection. A blood test can detect this second antibody which shows if you have had hepatitis A in the past, and that you are now immune.
If hepatitis A is suspected, your doctor may also suggest other blood tests called liver function tests. These measure the activity of chemicals and other substances made in the liver. This gives a general guide as to whether your liver is inflamed and how well it is working. See the separate leaflet called Abnormal Liver Function Tests for more details.
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What Are The Tests For Hepatitis C
There are two blood tests needed to diagnose hepatitis C:
The antibody test–called HCV antibody, HCV Ab, or anti-HCV–is done first. If this test is positive, it means that you have been infected with hepatitis C at some point in the past. If your antibody test is negative, then you have never been infected with hepatitis C if you were infected within the past month or so, the test may not be accurate you may needed to be retested at a later date.
However, a positive antibody test does not tell you if you still have hepatitis C. For that, you need to have a HCV RNA test, which determines whether the virus itself is in the bloodstream.
If any RNA is present in the blood after 6 months from time of infection, then you have chronic hepatitis C.
If no RNA is detected in the blood after 6 months, you no longer have hepatitis C.
Illegal Drugs And Cigarettes
Recreational drugs in general are no good for your liver. For example, may lead to faster liver scarring. And using a needle to inject substances can raise your odds of getting reinfected with hep C.
If you’re a smoker, you need to quit. It can make you more likely to get liver cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
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Reduced Effectiveness Of Peginterferon
While the drug peginterferon is used much less in modern HCV therapy, it is still common in cases where there has been previously failed treatment and/or a diagnosis of advanced liver disease. Ironically, it is often patients with a history of alcohol abuse who require peginterferon-based therapy.
Alcohol interferes with the efficacy of peginterferon, resulting in a 300% risk of viral rebound after completion of therapy. Surprisingly, the risk of failure was seen to be the same between both light and heavy drinkers when compared to non-drinkers with HCV.
How Can I Take Care Of Myself
- See your healthcare provider regularly.
- Follow your provider’s instructions for taking medicine for your symptoms. You need to avoid taking medicines that can damage the liver more . Ask your provider which medicines you can safely take for your symptoms, such as itching and nausea.
- Follow your provider’s advice for how much rest you need and when you can go back to your normal activities, including work or school. As your symptoms get better, you may slowly start being more active. It is best to avoid too much physical exertion until your provider says it’s OK.
- Eat small, high-protein, high-calorie meals, even when you feel nauseated. Sipping soft drinks or juices, and sucking on hard candy may help you feel less nauseated.
- Don’t drink alcohol unless your healthcare provider says it is safe.
- Contact your healthcare provider if: Your appetite keeps getting worse.
- You are getting more and more tired.
- You have vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain.
- Your skin gets yellowish.
- You have a new rash.
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Can The Results Of Liver Panel Tests Point To The Presence Of Hepatitis C
A “liver panel” usually includes tests called AST, ALT, bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, and some others. Abnormal results could show up in many different conditions, not just hepatitis C. And even if the results of a liver panel are normal, you might still have hepatitis C. So, the liver panel alone cannot tell your provider the answer.
Hepatitis C can be diagnosed only by blood tests that are specific to hepatitis C:
In short, if the results of one or more tests on a liver panel are abnormal, generally speaking, the tests should be repeated and confirmed. If the results remain abnormal, your provider should be prompted to look for the cause.
More important than using the liver panel, if you have risks of having been infected with hepatitis C then you should have the specific hepatitis C antibody test to determine if you have hepatitis C infection.
What Is The Treatment For Hepatitis A
There is no specific treatment needed for hepatitis A. It is usually a self-limiting illness, which means it usually goes away on its own. Your immune system will normally clear away the infection. Most people with hepatitis A infection don’t need to be admitted to hospital. However, admission to hospital may be suggested if you are severely ill or you are being sick and are lacking in fluid in the body .
Treatment is aimed at relieving your symptoms. It is common to feel more tired than usual when you have hepatitis A so you may need to have plenty of rest. Your doctor may be able to suggest some painkillers and some antisickness medication if needed. To help ease the symptom of itch, keep cool, wear loose clothing and avoid hot baths or showers. Avoiding fatty foods may help to reduce the feeling of sickness. Also, you should not drink alcohol whilst you are ill.
During your illness, your doctor may also want to keep a check on how your liver is working by repeating blood tests from time to time to look at this.
It is important to have excellent personal hygiene to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to others. Thoroughly wash your hands after going to the toilet. You should also avoid handling food and having unprotected sex when you are infected with the virus. Ask your doctor when it is safe for you to return to work, or for your child to return to school or nursery.
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Its More Important Than Ever To Keep Your Weight In Check
The second main cause of liver damage beyond hepatitis C is fatty liver disease, which is caused by being overweight, notes Menon. That means if hepatitis C caused liver damage or cirrhosis, its especially important to keep your weight in check.
Menon recommends paying special attention to your diet and exercising to avoid weight gain. Otherwise, he says, there is no specific diet to promote liver health.
What Are The Different Types Of Blood Tests How Often Should I Get These Tests Done
There are several different blood tests, or “labs” that your provider may order for you. The tests measure the amounts of various proteins and enzymes that the liver produces. This is a way of finding out how damaged the liver is. Your provider can determine how often each test needs to be done. Please see Understanding Lab Tests for more details about the tests you may have.
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What Causes Alcoholic Hepatitis
When alcohol gets processed in the liver, it produces highly toxic chemicals. These chemicals can injure the liver cells. This injury then leads to inflammation, and alcoholic hepatitis.
Although heavy alcohol use leads to alcoholic hepatitis, doctors arent entirely sure why the condition develops. Alcoholic hepatitis develops in a minority of people who heavily use alcohol no more than 35 percent according to the American Liver Foundation. It can also develop in people who moderately use alcohol.
When Should You Call Your Doctor
911 or other emergency services immediately if you have hepatitis C and you:
- Feel extremely confused or are having hallucinations.
- Are bleeding from the rectum or are vomiting blood.
- You think you may have been infected with hepatitis C.
- You have risk factors for hepatitis C, such as IV drug use.
- You have symptoms of hepatitis C and you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C.
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How Is It Treated
Experts recommend that nearly everyone who has hepatitis C receive treatment. Talk with your doctor about whether you should get treatment. Current treatments for hepatitis C almost always work.
Taking care of yourself is an important part of the treatment for hepatitis C. Some people with hepatitis C don’t notice a change in the way they feel. Others feel tired, sick, or depressed. You may feel better if you exercise and eat healthy foods. To help prevent further liver damage, avoid alcohol and illegal drugs and certain medicines that can be hard on your liver.
Increased Risk Of Cirrhosis
There is little doubt that people with chronic hepatitis C who drink alcohol have a higher chance of developing cirrhosis. From an epidemiological point of view, more than 90% of heavy drinkers will develop fatty liver disease, of which as many as 20% will develop liver cirrhosis within 10 to 20 years.
Hepatitis C infection runs a similar course, with 75% of infected persons developing chronic disease, while 15-20% will progress to advanced disease within 10 to 30 years.
The combination of these two factors speeds the process dramatically, as well as increasing the severity of liver damageby some estimates, by as much as 200-300%. Furthermore, heavy alcohol users with HCV have a nearly 11-fold greater risk of developing cirrhosis than non-drinkers with HCV.
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What Is The Difference Between Relapse And Nonresponse
The goal of treating chronic hepatitis C is to completely clear the virus. This means that your “viral load” is zero or so low that the virus can’t be detected with standard blood tests.
Without treatment, the hepatitis C virus in liver cells constantly makes copies of itself, and the virus ends up not just in liver cells but also in the bloodstream. Treatment is intended to completely stop reproduction of the virus so that it doesn’t continue to enter the bloodstream or cause any more injury to liver cells.
Successful treatment results in a “sustained virological response.” This means the virus becomes completely undetectable before the treatment is finished, and it remains undetectable for 6 months after treatment is stopped.
A “relapse” means the viral load drops to an undetectable level before treatment is completed, but becomes detectable again within 6 months after treatment is stopped. Even if the virus returns at a level that is lower than it was before treatment, a relapse is still considered to have occurred. A relapse can be determined if the viral load starts to rise during treatment, or at any time after the virus becomes undetectable.
A “nonresponse” means the viral load never drops significantly and the virus remains detectable throughout the course of treatment.
Whos At Risk For Hepatitis C
You might be more likely to get it if you:
- Inject or have injected street drugs
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Got clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplants before July 1992
- Got blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for hepatitis C
- Are on dialysis
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