Causes And Risk Factors
THe HCV virus causes hepatitis C.
People contract the virus through blood-to-blood contact with contaminated blood. For transmission to occur, blood containing HCV must enter the body of a person without HCV.
A speck of blood, invisible to the naked eye, can carry hundreds of hepatitis C virus particles. The virus is not easy to kill.
The CDC offers advice on cleaning syringes if it is not possible to use clean and sterile ones. Although bleach might kill the HCV in syringes, it may not have the same effect on other equipment. Boiling, burning, and using alcohol, peroxide, or other common cleaning fluids to wash equipment may reduce the amount of HCV, but it might not stop a person contracting the infection.
It is extremely dangerous to inject bleach, disinfectant, or other cleaning products, so be sure to rinse the syringe thoroughly. Only ever use bleach to clean equipment if new, sterile syringes and equipment are not available.
A person cannot contract the virus from casual contact, breathing, kissing, or sharing food. There is no evidence that mosquito bites can transfer the virus.
The report the following risk factors for developing hepatitis C:
- using or having used injectable drugs, which is currently the most common route in the U.S.
- receiving transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, which is before blood screening became available
- exposure to a needle stick, which is most common in people who work in healthcare
- being born to a mother who has hepatitis C
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.
What Is The Relationship Between Hepatitis C And Liver Damage
Hepatitis C is a disease caused due to an infection by Hepatitis C virus that affects the liver. This health disorder has two different phases acute and chronic. An individual having the former phase means he or she got affected recently while the latter phase means a person has the infection for over six months. Patients of the acute phase may fight against HCV without suffering from liver problems. But approximately 85% of patients fail to do so and enter the chronic phase.
Essential facts about hepatitis C and liver damage:
The infection is caused by coming in contact with an infected persons blood. Most people do not possess any symptoms or liver damage signs after getting affected with this virus.
Chronic phase or long-term Hepatitis C usually causes tiny scars in the liver. Still, you wont notice any liver damage signs. If a person has many such scars, then the liver is unable to work well. Studies reflect that nearly 25% of patients having chronic Hepatitis C possess severe liver problems like cirrhosis, liver cancer, etc. for more than 20 years.
With the growth of such scars, a patients liver takes an attempt to heal naturally by producing new cells. Higher chances of mutation are observed if the liver creates more cells. This, in turn, may lead to cancerous tumors.
Whatever stage you be in, it is advisable to follow your doctors advice and proceed accordingly.
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Who Is At Risk For Hepatitis C
You are more likely to get hepatitis C if you
- Have injected drugs
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you probably will not have symptoms until it causes complications. This can happen decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
Treatments For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be treated with medicines that stop the virus multiplying inside the body. These usually need to be taken for several weeks.
Until recently, most people would have taken 2 main medicines called pegylated interferon and ribavirin .
Tablet-only treatments are now available.
These new hepatitis C medicines have been found to make treatment more effective, are easier to tolerate, and have shorter treatment courses.
They include simeprevir, sofosbuvir and daclatasvir.
Using the latest medications, more than 90% of people with hepatitis C may be cured.
But it’s important to be aware that you will not be immune to the infection and should take steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected again.
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Know The Signs: What Liver Disease Looks Like In Hepatitis C
As many as 80% of people with hepatitis C have no symptoms of liver disease until it has started to progressa process that can take decades.
While getting tested for C if you are at risk is the best way to stay ahead of the disease, knowing the early and late-stage warning signs of liver damage also makes sense.
Your liver is tasked with a lot of important jobs from cleaning your blood to turning all that you eat and drink into energy and nutrients that your body can use. When it becomes infected with hepatitis C, the symptoms will affect all systems and organs related to the livers many functions.
What Do You Do If You Become Ill
Talk to your health care provider about getting tested if you think you:
- are at risk
- may have hepatitis C
If you have hepatitis C, tell those who may have been exposed to your blood or bodily fluids. They should get tested and be treated if necessary. Bodily fluids, like semen and vaginal fluid, are a concern because they could be carrying small amounts of infected blood.
Some adults with hepatitis C will recover from the disease on their own within 6 months. Until your health care provider confirms your recovery status, you are still contagious and can spread the disease.
After recovery, you are no longer contagious because you will not have the disease anymore. But you can get hepatitis C again.
Unfortunately, most adults with hepatitis C:
- cannot recover on their own
- develop a more serious form of the disease if they are sick for longer than 6 months
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Quantitative Detection Of Serum Hcv Rna
HCV RNA levels of patients with chronic HCV infection were determined by use of a second-generation branched DNA signalamplification method . The range of linear relationship provided by the branched DNA assay was 0.257 × 106 .
For semiquantitation, HCV RNA extracted from the serum of HCV carriers was serially diluted 10-fold with distilled water free of RNase. It was supplemented with 40 mg/mL poly, converted to cDNA, and then amplified by PCR with nested primers. The primers were from the 5-noncoding and core regions of the HCV genome. The highest dilution positive for HCV RNA was determined, from which the HCV RNA level in 50 µL of serum was estimated.
Getting Tested For Hepatitis C
Seek medical advice if you have persistent symptoms of hepatitis C or there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you do not have any symptoms.
A blood test can be carried out to see if you have the infection.
GPs, sexual health clinics, genitourinary medicine clinics or drug treatment services all offer testing for hepatitis C.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent or limit any damage to your liver, as well as help ensure the infection is not passed on to other people.
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How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis C
Doctors treat hepatitis C with antiviral medicines that attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases.
Several newer medicines, called direct-acting antiviral medicines, have been approved to treat hepatitis C since 2013. Studies show that these medicines can cure chronic hepatitis C in most people with this disease. These medicines can also cure acute hepatitis C. In some cases, doctors recommend waiting to see if an acute infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these newer, direct-acting antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C:
You may need to take medicines for 8 to 24 weeks to cure hepatitis C. Your doctor will prescribe medicines and recommend a length of treatment based on
- which hepatitis C genotype you have
- how much liver damage you have
- whether you have been treated for hepatitis C in the past
Your doctor may order blood tests during and after your treatment. Blood tests can show whether the treatment is working. Hepatitis C medicines cure the infection in most people who complete treatment.
Hepatitis C medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
Can Hepatitis A Be Treated
There is no drug treatment for hepatitis A. The disease will eventually run its course and an infected person will recover completely although recovery time varies for each person. Recovery from this virus infection means that you are protected for life from getting it again.
The following are some ways of dealing with the symptoms:
- You will feel tired and may have very little energy. You may need to take time off from daily activities, work or school to recover.
- Nausea and vomiting may cause you to lose your appetite. Try to eat small snacks and soft foods such as soup or toast.
- You may look yellow. Once you become yellow, you are no longer infectious. There is no need to isolate yourself. Let people around you know it is OK to be near you.
- Try not to drink alcohol. Your liver may not be able to process alcohol and alcohol may make your symptoms worse.
- Talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications or complementary medicine. None of the alternative therapies have proved helpful in treating hepatitis A.
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How Does Hepatitis C Affect Your Body
Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis C virus is most often transmitted through infected blood, such as by sharing needles, says Alexander Kuo, MD, medical director of liver transplantation at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
Sexual transmission is very uncommon, he says. In healthy adults, youre more likely to catch HCV by sharing a toothbrush or razor than through sexual contact. Using barrier methods during sex decreases the risk further.
People who contract HCV often dont realize they have it. During the early stages of infection, the vast majority of people are symptom free, Dr. Kuo says, so it can be difficult to diagnose before it has already done lasting damage to your liver.
People who may have been exposed children of women who have hepatitis C people who have gotten at-home tattoos and those whove used intravenous drugs should get a onetime blood test to screen for HCV even before they experience symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . People who actively inject drugs should have routine screenings.
Over time, the chronic inflammation from untreated hepatitis C can lead to fibrosis, or scarring, in the liver. Kuo cautions that if this continues for 20 or more years, there is a risk that the liver can become hard from severe fibrosis, resulting in a condition called cirrhosis.
How Do I Get Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is spread through close contact with an infected person, or by eating hepatitis A contaminated food or drinking water. Because the virus is found in the stool of infected people, eating food prepared by an infected person, who does not wash his/her hands properly after using the washroom, is one way of getting the virus.
Eating raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish from water polluted with sewage, or eating salad greens that are rinsed in contaminated water are other ways of becoming infected. Sharing drug-use equipment, or having sexual contact with an infected person can also give you hepatitis A.
While often considered to be a travellers disease, hepatitis A can be contracted in Canada. Hepatitis A outbreaks or scares in Canada are most often associated with infected food handlers in restaurants and grocery stores or with contaminated produce.
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What Do I Do If I Find Out I Have Viral Hepatitis
After learning from your doctor that you have hepatitis, your first step will be to learn more about the virus. Read government resources, like the websites listed below, to find current, scientific information. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is important to prevent the virus from becoming serious. Dont drink or misuse drugs because they are hard on your liver. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Work to protect others by not donating blood or participating in risky behaviors, including sharing needles when using drugs or having unprotected sex.
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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Other Things To Know:
- Some patients take a drug called Coumadin , which elevates the PT for the purpose of “thinning” the blood. This is not related to having liver disease because it is the Coumadin causing the PT to be high.
- The test called INR measures the same factors as PT and is used instead of PT by many providers. See “INR.”
How Can I Protect Myself From Hepatitis C Infection
If you dont have hepatitis C, 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 persons 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
Hepatitis C can spread from person to person during sex, but the chances are low. People who have multiple sex partners, have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or who engage in rough or anal sex have a higher chance of getting hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about your risk of getting hepatitis C through sex and about safe sex practices, such as using a latex or polyurethane condom to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you had hepatitis C in the past and your body fought off the infection or medicines cured the infection, you can get hepatitis C again. Follow the steps above, and talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from another hepatitis C infection.
If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
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What Are Liver Enzymes
Enzymes are types of proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body. Liver enzymes can inform if there is a problem with the liver, but they dont always tell the whole story. A person with chronic active hepatitis C can have liver enzymes that go up and down and even return into normal or near-normal limits, but without treatment, liver damage can still be occurring.1-5
What Are The Other Health Challenges For People With Hepatitis Who Inject Drugs
People with hepatitis who inject drugs often have several other health conditions at the same time, including mental illness and HIV/AIDS, thus requiring care from multiple health care providers. This is sometimes referred to as co-occurring disorders. Substance use disorder treatment is critical for PWID, as it can reduce risky behaviors that increase the chance of transmitting hepatitis. Research has shown that patients with hepatitis receiving medication-assisted treatment for their opioid addiction can be safely treated with antiviral medications.5
To enhance HCV care, NIDA is examining coordinated care models that utilize case managers to integrate HCV specialty care with primary care, substance use disorder treatment, and mental health services so that these patients get treatment regimens that address all of their health care needs. The Health Resources and Services Administrations Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program developed a free, online curriculum about HIV/hepatitis C for healthcare providers and healthcare staff to increase knowledge about co-infection among people of color in the United States.
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