Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. But you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by:
- Not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- Wearing gloves if you have to touch another person’s blood or open sores
- Making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- Not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
- Using a latex condom during sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Checking Your Blood Labs
A lab test can give your doctor a clue that something is wrong. Get them done annually. However, please do not count on them. I had many labs tests with elevated liver enzymes only 1 time before my liver failed. A CBC and liver panel can offer clues to what is going on. The gold standard is to have your liver tested or biopsied to understand how the late warning signs of Hepatitis C are affecting your body. Your doctor may also look out for anemia due to varices bleeding, low platelets due to spleen health, or elevated ALT or AST .
Questions For Your Doctor
When you visit the doctor, you may want to ask questions to get the information you need to manage your hepatitis C. If you can, have a family member or friend take notes. You might ask:
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How Can I Prevent Spreading Hepatitis C To Others
If you have hepatitis C, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Tell your sex partner you have hepatitis C, and talk with your doctor about safe sex practices. In addition, you can protect others from infection by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you have hepatitis C. Dont donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
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Late Symptoms Of Hep C
When not spontaneously cleared, the virus eventually develops into a chronic condition and if they didn’t in the acute phase, what are termed “late” symptoms may appear. This is also very variable With some chronic patients symptoms are barely noticeable, while in others, the symptoms significantly impact their lives. As in the acute stage, the chronic symptoms may not occur and those infected may not be aware that it’s is related to hepatitis infection. The symptoms aligned with the chronic state can also be periodic, thus they can appear and disappear over time. Some of the common symptoms include chronic fatigue, joint and muscle aches, declines in short-term memory, concentration and trouble doing complex mental tasks , mood swings, depression and anxiety, indigestion or bloating, and abdominal pain.
While chronic fatigue may be a symptom of hep C, it is a symptom for many illnesses. Unless one is in a high-risk category, its easy to think the hep C symptoms might instead be symptoms of the flu, depression, or other triggers.
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How Do Doctors Treat The Complications Of Hepatitis C
If hepatitis C leads to cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Doctors can treat the health problems related to cirrhosis with medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased chance of liver cancer. Your doctor may order an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer.
If hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
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.
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
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Symptoms Of Hepatitis C In Women
Many women dont have symptoms until the disease is in a later stage. Women who have signs of the disease in the earliest stage may brush off symptoms or attribute them to other factors, such as anemia, depression, or menopause.
Early symptoms of hepatitis C in women can include:
- muscle and joint pain
- poor appetite
Some hepatitis C infections are acute and the infection clears or improves on its own without treatment within a few months. Acute infections are more common in women .
Hepatitis C can also be chronic, meaning the infection doesnt clear on its own, but rather progresses and damages the liver. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis and liver damage include:
- bruising or bleeding
- spider veins
The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C occur in both men and women, but the disease can progress slower in women. However, some women experience rapid progression of the disease and liver damage after menopause.
Having these symptoms doesnt mean you have hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C spreads from person-to-person through contact with infected blood. If you work in an industry where you might come in contact with blood, theres a slight risk of exposure. This includes personal care such as:
When To Seek Medical Advice
See your GP if you persistently have any of the later symptoms listed, or if they keep returning. They may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C.
Read more about diagnosing hepatitis C
None of these symptoms mean you definitely have hepatitis C, but it’s important to get them checked out.
You should also speak to your GP about getting tested if there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This particularly includes people who inject drugs or have done so in the past.
Read about the causes of hepatitis C for more information about who’s at risk of having the infection.
Page last reviewed: 27 October 2021 Next review due: 27 October 2024
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How Do You Prevent Hepatitis C
Researchers have yet to develop a vaccine that prevents hepatitis C .
Just as you might not know you have hepatitis C, other people with the condition may not know they have it, either. But you can take a few key precautions to avoid contracting it:
- Avoid sharing needles.
- When getting piercings or tattoos, check to make sure the piercer or tattoo artist uses only sterile, unopened needles and ink.
- Avoid sharing nail clippers, razors, and toothbrushes.
- Use sterile gloves when caring for someone elses wound.
Since hepatitis C is transmitted through blood, you wont get it by sharing food and drinks with someone who has the condition or by hugging, touching, or holding hands.
Hepatitis C is not commonly transmitted through sexual contact. But using a condom or another barrier method when having sex can always help lower your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
Keep in mind that you can contract hepatitis C again, even if youve had it already.
Most Common Symptoms Of Hepatitis C To Watch For
Because the symptoms can easily be mistaken for a mild stomach flu, food poisoning, dehydration, eating something you are allergic to, menstrual cramping and a number of other common occurrences, it is easy to see why so many people miss an acute Hepatitis C diagnosis.
Chronic Hepatitis C
For the majority of immune systems that are unable to mount a strong enough response to eliminate Hepatitis C from the liver, this infection becomes chronic. The longer the Hepatitis C virus resides in the body, the more inflammation and damage can be done to the liver.
Over time, soft, healthy liver tissue accumulates scars from the virus and becomes fibrotic. Known as liver fibrosis, this is a sign that liver disease is progressing.
If inflammation and liver cell damage continue, the liver can become cirrhotic. Characterized by the hardening and shrinking of liver tissue, liver cirrhosis is an advanced stage of liver disease. Once a person has severe fibrosis or cirrhosis as a consequence of Hepatitis C infection, more complex symptoms emerge.
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What Are The Complications Of Undiagnosed Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C is known to be associated with two skin conditions, lichen planus and porphyria cutanea tarda.
- Diabetes, heart disease, and arterial blockage are more common among patients with chronic hepatitis C infection than in the general population. It may be that liver damage and chronic inflammation caused by hepatitis C may affect the levels of blood fats and blood sugar.
- Low platelet counts may occur as a result of the destruction of platelets by antibodies.
How Do You Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C spreads when blood or body fluids contaminated with the hepatitis C virus get into your bloodstream through contact with an infected person.
You can be exposed to the virus from:
- Sharing injection drugs and needles
- Having sex, especially if you have HIV, another STD, several partners, or have rough sex
- Being stuck by infected needles
- Birth — a mother can pass it to a child
- Sharing personal care items like toothbrushes, razor blades, and nail clippers
- Getting a tattoo or piercing with unclean equipment
You canât catch hepatitis C through:
- Casual contact
- Have been on long-term kidney dialysis
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Have HIV
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
Since July 1992, all blood and organ donations in the U.S. are tested for the hepatitis C virus. The CDC says it is now rare that someone getting blood products or an organ would get hepatitis C. That said, The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 18 get tested for Hepatitis C. If you haven’t been screened, you should consider having it done.
Learn more about the risk factors for hepatitis C.
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How Do People Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C virus is found in the blood of people with HCV infection. It enters the body through blood-to-blood contact.
Until reliable blood tests for HCV were developed , people usually got hepatitis C from blood products and blood transfusions. Now that blood and blood products are tested for HCV, this is no longer the typical means of infection.
Currently, people usually get hepatitis C by sharing needles for injection drug use. An HCV-infected woman can pass the infection to her baby during birth. It is also possible to get hepatitis C from an infected person through sexual contact, an accidental needlestick with a contaminated needle, or improperly sterilized medical, acupuncture, piercing, or tattooing equipment.
Identifying The Early Signs Of Hepatitis
Once you discover that you have hepatitis, you must take immediate steps to stop the disease from spreading. If you have recently developed hepatitis, there are treatment options available. However, time is the single most important aspect of this disease because if you wait too long you might develop liver complications. If you find out that you have a type of hepatitis that has progressed to the chronic stage, you must learn how to manage your condition.
You might inadvertently be doing activities that worsen the effects of hepatitis. For instance, people with this ailment should avoid alcohol as it can damage the liver and make it harder for his body to resist infection.
A poor diet can also exacerbate hepatitis.
When you discover that you have hepatitis, you need to adopt a lifestyle that increases the odds of successful treatment. You can do this by improving your diet.
There are three broad categories of hepatitis treatments:
Antiviral medications can be useful in treating hepatitis. The pills are usually taken once a day and work effectively to combat the virus, preventing it from spreading.
The objective of these pills is to eliminate the virus from the infected parts of the body and to stop or slow down damage to his liver. Hopefully this neutralizes the chance of developing cirrhosis and scarring of the liver.
Although hepatitis is most commonly the result of an infection, other factors can cause the condition.
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The Early Signs And Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis is a type of inflammation that occurs in the liver. The ailment is most commonly caused by the hepatitis C virus. However, it could be caused by infection, toxins, medication, or autoimmune processes. If not detected during the early stages, it can become serious. But most people do not experience any symptoms, which is why it is hard to detect. Listed below are some of the most common symptoms of hep C.
1. Early signs and symptoms of Hepatitis CAcute hepatitis can lead to a plethora of distressing symptoms. Many times, the symptoms are similar to that of the flu. A lot of people may not exhibit any symptoms at all.
The common symptoms of hep C include: fever fatigue nausea and vomiting pain in the belly dark urine and/or clay-colored stool jaundice, most commonly characterized by yellowish tinted skin and eyes loss of appetite pain in the joints. These symptoms can be experienced between 2 and 12 weeks after exposure to the virus. In case one experiences any of these symptoms, it is advisable to seek professional help immediately.
2. Chronic Hepatitis C SymptomsIf a persons condition does not get diagnosed and treated, they could have Hepatitis C for years without even knowing it. Doctors often term this condition as chronic as it lasts for a long time. People who have it for a long time usually end up getting liver cancer or scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis.
Genotyping And Serotyping Of Hcv
Hepatitis C genotyping is helpful in defining the epidemiology of hepatitis C, but on an individual patient basis, genotyping is crucial in regard to treatment recommendations and duration. Genotyping is based on sequence analysis by sequencing or reverse hybridization. Although viral load can vary within a 0.5- to 1-log range, HCV genotype does not change during the course of infection. In case of suspected superinfection, another genotype might rarely be detected. For reliable genotyping, 5URT alone is insufficient, including parts of the core sequence enhance genotyping reliability. Sequencing of NS5b is the gold standard.
Serotyping is the only other option to test for the type of HCV in cases of remote infection. This, however, is relevant for epidemiologic studies only and is not used clinically.
Andrea D. Branch, in, 2004
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What Type Of Doctor Treats Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is treated by either a gastroenterologist, a hepatologist , or an infectious disease specialist. The treatment team may include more than one specialist, depending on the extent of liver damage.Surgeons who specialize in surgery of the liver, including liver transplantation, are part of the medical team and should see patients with advanced disease early, before the patient needs a liver transplant. They may be able to identify issues that need to be addressed before surgery can be considered. Other persons who can be helpful in managing patients include dietitians to consult on nutritional issues and pharmacists to assist with management of drugs.
How Is Hepatitis C Spread
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with the blood of someone who has HCV. This contact may be through:
- Sharing drug needles or other drug materials with someone who has HCV. In the United States, this is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.
- Getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on someone who has HCV. This can happen in health care settings.
- Being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not sterilized after being used on someone who has HCV
- Having contact with the blood or open sores of someone who has HCV
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
- Being born to a mother with HCV
- Having unprotected sex with someone who has HCV
Before 1992, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since then, there has been routine testing of the U.S. blood supply for HCV. It is now very rare for someone to get HCV this way.
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Hepatitis C And Liver Transplantation
Some people with advanced hepatitis C infection and severe liver damage undergo a liver transplant, but that doesn’t eradicate the infection. Patients with active infection at the time of the transplant will develop hepatitis C in the new liver. Sometimes the infection recurs even when patients are on antiviral treatment. Those who have achieved sustained virologic response – meaning no detectable virus in the blood 6 months after treatment – have a very low risk of developing hepatitis C infection in the new liver.