What Does High/low Viral Load Mean
Viral load is the amount of virus present in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the amount of viral genetic material per milliliter of blood. The amount of virus does not predict how severe the liver disease is or will become. The level of the viral load does not tell us anything about the risk of liver damage or how sick someone is. In hepatitis C, it matters if virus is present or absent. Some treatment regimens can be shortened if the patient has a low viral load to start with, but most often, treatment regimens are the same for people with high hepatitis C viral loads or low viral loads.
The RNA test is essential for making the diagnosis of hepatitis C infection–having a positive RNA test is the definition of having infection. After the diagnosis is made, the RNA level does not need to be checked over and over unless it is checked during the time that the patient is undergoing treatment. During treatment, regular RNA tests are done to follow the dropping virus level until it reaches an undetectable state. But before treatment and after treatment, repeated RNA testing is not necessary.
Why Cure Hep C
Curing your hep C clears the virus from your body. It reduces liver inflammation and can help reverse fibrosis and even cirrhosis.
Live free from the worry of hep C knowing that you no longer have hep C can help you feel better about yourself. For example, you may no longer feel worried about passing hep C to other people. There has been no better time to think about hep C treatment.
Find out more about the benefits of clearing hep C call the Hepatitis Infoline.
Grace talks about her experience of being cured of hepatitis C with new, highly effective treatments. Theres never been a better time to be cured of hep C.
What Will My Doctor Need To Know To Treat Me
If you want to be assessed for treatment, you need to make an appointment with a doctor. They will be mostly interested in the condition of your liver. Your doctor will organise, if possible, for you to have a Fibroscan examination. If Fibroscan is not available, your doctor will probably use an APRI test. This is an online calculator that estimates the health of your liver. It involves a blood test called a liver function test.
Dont forget, its very important to get a PCR test 12 weeks after finishing treatment this will mean the doctor can make sure you are cured.
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If I Get Tested For Hepatitis C And The Result Is Positive Do I Need Any Other Tests To Be Sure
When your provider wants to test you for hepatitis C, the first test you will have is the hepatitis C antibody . If this test is positive, it means you were infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in the past. But this test alone is not enough. You will still need another test to confirm if you still have the hepatitis C virus in your system. About 1 out of 5 people who get infected with hepatitis C will be able get the rid of the virus on their own, without treatment, very early after their infection. So some people will have a positive antibody test, but a negative HCV RNA .
So, the second test that your provider should request is called hepatitis C virus RNA or HCV RNA test. There are several different tests available to check the HCV RNA. What matters is that if the RNA test is positive, then you do have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. If the RNA test is negative, then you may need to have this test again to be sure. If these RNA tests are all negative, then you no longer have hepatitis C infection and do not have chronic hepatitis C.
If your hepatitis C antibody test is positive, be sure that you get tested for hepatitis C RNA to find out whether the infection has become chronic or whether it has cleared. If the infection has become chronic, there are treatments your provider can prescribe to fight off the hepatitis C virus and keep your liver healthy.
How Can The Spread Of Hepatitis C Be Prevented
People who have had hepatitis C should remain aware that their blood is potentially infectious.
- Do not shoot drugs if you shoot drugs, stop and get into a treatment program if you can’t stop, never share needles, syringes, water or “works”, and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
- Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them .
- If you are a health care or public safety worker, always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- Consider the risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing. You might get infected if the tools have someone else’s blood on them or if the artist or piercer does not follow good health practices.
- HCV can be spread by sex, but this is rare. If you are having sex with more than one steady sex partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. You should also get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- If you are infected with HCV, do not donate blood, organs or tissue.
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What Are The Symptoms And Consequences Of Infection
Approximately 20 percent of persons exposed to the virus develop symptoms which may include jaundice , fatigue, dark-colored urine, stomach pain, loss of appetite and nausea. After the initial infection, 15-25 percent will recover and 75-85 percent will become chronically infected . Approximately 70 percent of persons chronically infected may develop liver disease, sometimes decades after initial infection.
Im Cured A Story About Overcoming Hepatitis C In Argentina
For World Hepatitis Day, Diego Villoldo relates how he overcame the hepatitis infection. A journey from despondent resignation to a new lease of life.
Buenos Aires, July 2019 Im cured, said Diego Villoldo with a big smile after getting the results of his treatment for hepatitis C, which he received at a hospital in the city of Buenos Aires. Diagnosed in 2007, it had been a long and at times rocky road, but within three months the new revolutionary treatment allowed him to look toward a bright new future now devoted to his interest in music.
I am a luthier. I make string instruments, so I have always been connected with music through my work, but I started to think more seriously about what I want to do. I knew that I wanted to play music, so thats what Im doing, said Diego, who works in a shop in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Telmo.
Today, he says that he has always looked forward in life, but a few years ago all that changed dramatically when recieved his diagnosis. When I found out that I had hepatitis C, I started drinking and resigned myself to live the however many days of life I had left, but a year later I had an accident where I fell from the second floor and was in intensive care for 11 days. I left hospital with a new lease of life knowing that I had gotten a second chance, he recalls.
When I found out that I had hepatitis C, I started drinking and resigned myself to live however many days of life I had left.
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Tests To Diagnose Hepatitis C
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
There are two main blood tests typically used to diagnose Hepatitis C. First, youll have a screening test that shows if youve ever had Hepatitis C at some point in your life. If this test is positive, youll have a second test to see if you have Hepatitis C now. These blood tests are described below:
Hepatitis C antibody test
This is the screening test used by doctors to show whether or not you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis C at some time in your life, by detecting antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are substances your body makes to fight off all kinds of infections. If you were ever infected with Hepatitis C, your body would have made antibodies to fight the virus.
If the test result is:
- Negative, it means you have not been exposed to Hepatitis C and further testing is usually not needed.
- Positive, you have had Hepatitis C at some point. However, it does not tell you whether you have it now. Youll need to see your doctor for another test the Hepatitis C RNA test to determine if the virus is still active and present in your blood.
Hepatitis C RNA Qualitative Test
This test will determine whether or not you are currently infected with Hepatitis C. It is often called the PCR test because of the process used . It looks for the genetic material of the Hepatitis C virus in your blood.
If the test result is:
Hepatitis C RNA Quantitative Test
How Can I Prevent Hepatitis C Infection
Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, there are things you can do to avoid becoming infected or re-infected and prevent the spread of hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is not spread through food or close personal contact such as handshaking, hugging and kissing. Hepatitis C is spread when the blood from an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. To avoid this happening:
- do not share needles or other equipment to inject drugs or any other substances
- do not use personal items that may have come in contact with an infected persons blood such as shavers or toothbrushes
- avoid touching blood or open wounds
- avoid sexual practices that might risk blood contact including trauma, during menstruation, or in presence of genital ulcers.
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Can I Drink Alcohol Once In A While If I Have Hepatitis C
Alcohol can clearly contribute to worsening liver disease. You must discuss with your health care provider if any amount of alcohol is safe for you.
Alcohol can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If you have any underlying liver condition, such as hepatitis C or hepatitis B or damage from long-term alcohol use, your liver will be more sensitive to alcohol. When you have hepatitis C virus, alcohol on top of the hepatitis C can cause the inflammation and scarring to be worse, and overall damage to the liver may happen much faster when you drink alcohol.
Here is some helpful information about alcohol and hepatitis:
Who Is Most At Risk Of Contracting Hepatitis C
You have a high risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- use or have used injection drugs even if it was just once or many years ago
- have received blood or blood products or an organ transplant before July 1990 in Canada
- have been in jail or
- have been injected or scratched during vaccination, surgery, blood transfusion or a religious/ceremonial ritual in regions where hepatitis C is common.
You have a high moderate risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- have tattoos or body piercing
- have multiple sexual partners
- have a sexually transmitted infection , including HIV or lymphogranuloma venereum
- have experienced traumatic sex or rough sex or have used sex toys or fisting that can tear body tissue
- have vaginal sex during menstruation
- have received a kidney treatment
- have received an accidental injury from a needle or syringe
- have another infectious disease
- were born to a hepatitis C infected mother or
- have a sexual partner infected with hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is NOT passed from person to person by:
- coughing, sneezing
- breastfeeding unless your nipples are cracked and bleeding or
- oral sex, unless blood is present.
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Life Expectancy And Prognosis
Can you die from hepatitis? Technically, the complications of chronic hepatitis C are fatal. About 30,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cirrhosis.
How long can you live with untreated hep C? The disease affects everyone differently, so thereâs no rule. But about 70% to 80% of people with will get chronic help C. Within 20 years, about 20% to 30% of those people will get cirrhosis. From there, it depends on what type of cirrhosis you have, your treatment, and if you can get a liver transplant.
Can hepatitis C go away on its own? Yes. From 15% to 20% of people with hep C clear it from their bodies without treatment. Itâs more likely to happen in women and people who have symptoms. But it usually happens between 4 and 18 months after symptoms start.
How To Treat Hepatitis C
Lets say you were at the doctor and routine blood work showed elevated liver enzymes. Or maybe you took our advice and got screenedand learned the reason you feel tired all the time isnt because youre getting olderits because you have hepatitis C. Either way, once youve been given a hepatitis C diagnosis, whats next? If this were 20 years ago, the answer would be something like: daily doses of the antiviral drug Interferon, coupled with serious side effects that caused nearly one in two people to drop out of treatment altogether. For all your troubles, you had less than a 50 percent chance of ridding your body of the virus.
Fast forward two decades and hepatitis C is, for all practical purposes, a curable disease. With treatment, almost 100 percent of people can be free of hepatitis C, says Dr. Menon. The exact treatment you receive will depend on factors including the amount of virus in your body , the specific strain of hepatitis C youre dealing with and whether there is any liver damage.
There are close to a dozen direct-acting antiviral medications available to treat specific strains of hepatitis C today, but three options cover all strains of the virus, according to the American Liver Foundation:
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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
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 Makes Hepatitis C So Serious
Unlike hepatitis B, another serious virus that affects the liver, there is no vaccination to prevent hepatitis C. It’s also the most common blood-borne virus in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration , and it kills roughly 15,000 Americans every year.
Referred to as a silent epidemic, it’s also usually symptomless, and many people who have hepatitis C may even live for years without feeling sickor may never feel effects at all, if they catch it before it advances.
If an infected person does have symptoms, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark urine, or jaundice .
Who Can Be Treated For Hepatitis C
Treatment decisions should be made by both you and your provider. Current treatments for hepatitis C are very successful and can cure most people of the virus.
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A Revolution In Hep C Treatment
More than 3 million Americans have a long-lasting hepatitis C infection. Most donât know it, because there usually aren’t symptoms.
Sofosbuvir was one of the first direct-acting antivirals to target hep C,the viru a disease spread through direct blood-to-blood contact. DAAs work in different ways to stop hep C from making copies of itself.
These drugs are kinder and gentler than the old standard of care — interferon shots and ribavirin alone. That route could take as long as a year, it only cured about half of the people, and the side effects were brutal.
âImagine taking an injection and a pill that made you feel — every day — worse than you ever felt from the infection that was being treated,â says Alexea Gaffney-Adams, MD, an infectious disease specialist in Smithtown, NY.
Side effects included flu-like symptoms, joint pain, anemia, and depression.
Limes says the old treatment felt like pouring gasoline into his system. âIt was like killing me to keep me alive.â In fact, it made his hep C worse, so his doctors took him off it.
Todayâs therapies are pills only and donât need interferon. They have very few side effects and double the cure rate — to 90% to 100%. They work in as little as 8 or 12 weeks.
âMy who had been on the older regimens — and failed, and now have the luck of being able to experience these new medications — canât believe the difference,â says Gaffney-Adams.