What Is Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is an easily-cured liver infection that is caused by hepatitis C virus . The virus is slow acting and symptoms may not appear for many years.
Hep C is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. This is when the blood of someone with hep C gets into your blood stream. It can cause long-term health problems if left untreated, particularly for the liver.
The virus can survive outside the body from around 12 hours to a few weeks. In most cases it wont last longer than four days.
Early Signs To Look Out For
Like many diseases, Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis simply means that you have had it for less than six months, while chronic is the long-term version. When left untreated, acute Hepatitis C can develop into chronic Hepatitis C.
Thats why early detection is important for recovery. Hepatitis C causes damage to the liver, which is definitely not something you want to ignore. Complicating things is the fact that impaired liver function can be hard to detect, and a large number of people with the virus are never even diagnosed.
Perhaps the most well-known method of transmittal is through the blood, which can occur when an infected person shares a needle, or through sexual contact. The list of symptoms include:
- Off-color Feces
As previously mentioned, the primary way Hepatitis C is transmitted is through blood. Common situations where that can occur are:
- Getting a tattoo in unsanitary conditions
- Sharing or using needles
- Sharing or using any items that might have blood on them, like a razor or a toothbrush
- Had a blood transfusion before the early 90s
- Born to infected mother
- Nasal administration of drugs
For an individual who exhibits the listed symptoms and/or have been in the mentioned situations, getting tested would be the safest route to take.
Diagnosis Of The Hepatitis C Virus
Initially, the doctor will perform a blood test to determine whether or not there is any infection present. If an infection is detected, the doctor will then order an ultrasound test to see whether there are any signs of cirrhosis or liver cancer. In cases where ultrasound results are unclear, the doctor may order additional tests, such as a CT scan or MRI. For some patients, doctors may recommend a liver biopsy which involves inserting a thin needle through the abdominal wall to remove a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing. This is another method used for accurate diagnosis before treatment.
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Hepatitis Early Warning Signs And Symptoms
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. People cannot live without their liver, thus the name. There are numerous illnesses and conditions that can impact the liver. It is the job of the liver to remove toxins from the body. If the liver is not functioning properly, toxins will build up in the bloodstream, leading to serious illnesses. Therefore, it is critical for people to stop some of the early signs of liver damage. This includes hepatitis.
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Hepatitis is a condition that leads to inflammation of the liver. Sometimes, people develop hepatitis due to an autoimmune condition. In other situations, people may develop an infection that leads to hepatitis. If the liver is inflamed, it is not functioning properly. Therefore, toxins could build up in the body. The sooner hepatitis is diagnosed, the faster it can be treated. This can improve someones overall prognosis. What are some of the most common signs and symptoms of hepatitis? Why is it important to diagnose this condition early?
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Severity Of The Hepatitis C Virus
The virus often results in chronic hepatitis and, unlike the hepatitis B virus, there is still no vaccine available to help prevent it. Because patients with acute hepatitis C rarely experience symptoms, they often do not receive the treatment they need and thus the disease may develop into chronic hepatitis.
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Early Warning Signs Of Hepatitis
Since many of the cases of hepatitis are left undiagnosed, understanding the early signs of the disease can prevent it from advancing to cirrhosis and cancer. Unfortunately, most hepatitis B and C symptoms do not appear until the infection has caused significant damage to the liver.
Regular health assessment, timely vaccination against each type of hepatitis, and appropriate preventive measures against the infection are more critical in preventing the disease.
What Causes Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with an infected persons blood. Contact can occur by
- sharing drug needles or other drug materials with an infected person
- getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on an infected person
- being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not kept sterilefree from all viruses and other microorganismsand were used on an infected person before they were used on you
- having contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- using an infected persons razor, toothbrush, or nail clippers
- being born to a mother with hepatitis C
- having unprotected sex with an infected person
You cant get hepatitis C from
- being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
- drinking water or eating food
- hugging an infected person
- shaking hands or holding hands with an infected person
- sharing spoons, forks, and other eating utensils
- sitting next to an infected person
A baby cant get hepatitis C from breast milk.18
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How To Lower Your Odds Of Infection
Thereâs no effective vaccine against HCV. Take some precautions in high-risk situations. If youâre a health care worker, be careful with blood. If you have sex with more than one partner, use condoms. And if you use drugs, donât share needles, syringes, or anything that goes up your nose.
Spouses, partners, and others in close contact with people who have hep C should not share toothbrushes and razors. If you have the disease, cover your wounds and throw out blood-soaked bandages, tampons, or pads. Donât let anyone else in the house touch them.
Eat Regular Nutritious Meals
Sometimes people with hepatitis C have a hard time eating. You may have no appetite, feel nauseated, or have different tastes than you are used to. Even if you don’t feel like eating, it’s very important to eat small meals throughout the day. Some people have nausea in the afternoon. If this happens to you, try to eat a big, nutritious meal in the morning.
If you have cirrhosis, it may not be a good idea to eat salty foods or foods that are high in protein. If you want to know more about which foods to avoid and which foods are good to eat, ask your doctor about meeting with a registered dietitian to discuss a healthy eating plan.
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Abdominal And Leg Swelling
Among the many roles your liver plays, it receives blood from your intestines and spleen. But when cirrhosis occurs, the flow of blood to your liver slows dramatically and begins to back up in the portal vein, which connects the intestines to the liver. This is known as portal hypertension.
In turn, portal hypertension causes the blood to divert to smaller veins, and eventually, the increased pressure in these veins can cause them to burst or leak. Leakage from your veins into your stomach or lower extremities is known as ascites, and it is one of the most common symptoms of cirrhosis, according to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. There can be fluid in your belly that is caused by a backup of blood from your intestines that cant go through to the liver, says Dr. de Jong. Essentially, the increased pressure on your veins causes leakage of fluid around intestines and it can feeling like swollen belly.
What Causes Hepatitis C Infection
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood.
You can get hepatitis C if:
- You share needles and other equipment used to inject illegal drugs.
- You had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. Since the early 1990s, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C in Canada.
- You get a shot with a needle that has infected blood on it. This happens in some developing countries where they use needles more than once when giving shots.
- You get a tattoo or a piercing with a needle that has infected blood on it. This can happen if equipment isn’t cleaned properly after it is used.
In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C may spread the virus to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth, or a health care worker may be accidentally exposed to blood that is infected with hepatitis C.
The risk of getting hepatitis C through sexual contact is very small.footnote 1 The risk is higher if you have many sex partners or you engage in unprotected sexual activity that may involve contact with blood or an exchange of blood with an infected person . The presence of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections also increases the chances of getting hepatitis C sexually.
You cannot get hepatitis C from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drink.
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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 personÃ¢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.
Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms
If you donât get diagnosed and treated, you could have the disease for years and not know it. Doctors call this the chronic form, because it lasts a long time. Some people who’ve had it for a while get scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis. or liver cancer.
In addition to the above symptoms, signs that your liver isnât working the way it should include:
- Ascites — fluid buildup in your belly
- Hepatic encephalopathy — confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Jaundice of the skin
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Importance Of Understanding And Acting On The Early Signs Of Hepatitis
Should you discover that you are a carrier, it is vital that you take the necessary steps to prevent the disease from spreading. If you have recently acquired the disease, treatments are available. However, time is of the essence if you wait too long, you may suffer liver damage or even develop liver cancer. If you discover that you have a form of hepatitis that has progressed to the chronic stage, it is important that you learn how to manage the disease.
You could unknowingly be participating in activities that exacerbate some of the effects of the disease. For instance, persons who have hepatitis should avoid alcohol, because it can damage the liver and make it harder for a persons body to fight the infection. Poor diets can also have a negative impact.
Should you discover that you have hepatitis, though, you can begin to adopt a diet and lifestyle that is beneficial to counteract the effects of the disease.
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Hepatitis C
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You may be one of the few people who get early warning signs of hepatitis C. It starts within the first few weeks after exposure, and is like a flare up Thats your bodys immune response to the virus giving a shout out. From there, you can expect a couple of things: First, you can move into the acute stage, and your body may actually fight off the virus. This is rare. Second, you may move from acute hep C to chronic.
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Early Signs Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is not always easy to recognize as it might be asymptomatic in the early stages. Also, chronic hepatitis C is even more challenging to diagnose as compared to acute hepatitis C. So, being mindful of the early warning signs of hepatitis C is extremely important to diagnose the disease at the earliest:
Ignoring these early warning signs of hepatitis C can lead to a more severe stage of liver disease, so one must visit a doctor for early diagnosis and undertake timely treatment if they experience any of these symptoms. Also, regular checkups can help facilitate early diagnosis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with an acute hepatitis C infection may have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include
- yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you most likely will have no symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
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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.
Hepatitis C Prevention Measures For All Children And Teenagers
If your child is accidentally cut or scratched with a used needle, use soap and water to wash your childs skin where the contact happened. Then see your GP. Your GP might do some blood tests.
Your child should not share toothbrushes, razors or other items that belong to someone who has hepatitis C, because these things might be contaminated with infected blood.
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What About Sex And Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be spread through sexual intercourse, but the risk is considered to be low. It is extremely rare among monogamous couples, meaning couples who only have sex with one another. The risk increases if you:
- Have multiple sex partners
- Have a sexually transmitted disease
- Are infected with HIV
There is no evidence that Hepatitis C is spread by oral sex.
To reduce the chance of getting or giving Hepatitis C through sexual contact, follow these guidelines:
- Use latex condoms every time you have sex, particularly if you have:
- More than one partner
- Rough sex that might make one of you bleed
- Sex during your or your partners menstrual period
- Sex when you or your partner has an open sore on either of your genitals
What Symptoms Should Parents Watch For
Hepatitis symptoms are wide-ranging and overlap with many common illnesses. A child with hepatitis may experience fever , fatigue, joint or muscle pain, loss of appetite or nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Children may also have abdominal pain or tenderness, particularly in the right upper abdomen, which is where the liver is located, Dr. Weymann said, and it is important to seek urgent medical attention any time a child shows sign of severe pain when their abdomen is touched. Doctors may consider other possible causes of abdominal pain, like appendicitis. Some children may have darker urine, or pale or clay-colored stools.
Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, is a hallmark sign of hepatitis although it is possible to have significant liver inflammation and show no signs of jaundice.
The first change is in the eyes: The white part begins to look yellow, Dr. Weymann said.
He noted that it can be more difficult to detect jaundice in children who have darker skin, so parents should take even subtle changes in tone seriously.
Typically, one wont see dramatic jaundice until the inflammation or dysfunction of the liver has progressed quite far already, Dr. Weymann said.
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Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis C
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who
- have injected drugs
- had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- have been on kidney dialysis
- have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- have had tattoos or body piercings
- have worked or lived in a prison
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- are infected with HIV
- have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- are men who have or had sex with men
In the United States, injecting drugs is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.13