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
Natural History And Clinical Manifestations
Patients with hepatitis C are usually recognized when they already have chronic disease, because in most cases acute hepatitis C lacks clinical manifestations. However, acute hepatitis C may be diagnosed serologically in patients presenting with signs and symptoms of acute liver disease, such as malaise, anorexia, nausea, upper abdominal discomfort, and jaundice, as well as in individuals undergoing serologic testing after a suspect contact, such as a needlestick accident. Acute hepatitis C is believed to represent approximately 20% of cases of acute hepatitis.1 Fulminant hepatic failure caused by acute HCV infection is considered to be an extremely rare event. The diagnosis of acute hepatitis C is based on laboratory findings, including elevated transaminase values, as well as detection of HCV RNA and antibodies in the serum.10 HCV RNA is detectable within 1 to 2 weeks of exposure to the virus, whereas antibodies to viral proteins appear from 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure.1,14
Roger Y. Dodd, in, 2007
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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Direct Effect Of Hcv On Anticoagulant And Procoagulant Pathways
Activation of tissue factor is of primary importance in the initiation of the coagulation cascade and, as previously mentioned, damaged endothelium is the main source of tissue factor. Endothelial damage takes place in HCV infected patients, mainly by two main mechanisms. Firstly, today it is well known that HCV viral RNA binds to toll-like receptor -3 in endothelial cells leading to inflammation and generating enhanced expression of both tumor necrosis factor – and TNF receptor 2. In advanced stages of the disease, endothelial cells also express the chemokine CXCL 12 that recruits immune cells. Additionally, endothelial damage associated with cryoglobulinemia is due to a type 3 hypersensitivity reaction with formation of immune complexes of antibodies directed against viral RNA. These immune complexes activate endothelial cells. Inflammation generated by either of these mechanisms is accompanied by TNF- secretion. TNF- is an inducer of tissue factor expression, therefore exerting a prothrombotic effect and also downregulates thrombomodulin expression. Cytokines decrease fibrinolytic properties of the endothelial cells. In addition, tissue factor is present in increased amounts in microparticles in patients with chronic pure HCV infection, contributing in this way to enhanced coagulation.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis B And C
In most patients, hepatitis B develops slowly over the course of several decades, and thus most patients have no symptoms. People who have advanced liver disease such as cirrhosis of the liver may experience complications and symptoms that reflect liver failure. Other symptoms include:
- A buildup of fluid within the abdominal cavity
- Confusion and tremors , which are complications due to the inability of the liver to filter out toxins that are normally cleaned out by a healthy liver
- Vomiting of blood, or blood within the stool . This is a complication in which enlarged veins within the esophagus or stomach bleed as a consequence of increased pressure around the diseased liver.
Most patients with chronic hepatitis C infection report no symptoms. But some patients may have very nonspecific symptoms related to fatigue and discomfort on the right side of the abdomen. Often, symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of hepatitis C are noticeable only at the end stage of liver disease, when the patient has developed liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
Because hepatitis B and C typically have no specific symptoms, many people who have the viruses dont even know it.
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Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented Or Avoided
The only way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid coming in contact with an infected persons blood. Always have protected sex . Dont do intravenous drugs. Dont share personal care items with a person who has hepatitis C. If youre a health care worker, follow your workplaces standard safety practices.
Hepatitis C Antibody Test
Certain foreign substances that enter your body trigger your immune system to make antibodies. Antibodies are specifically programmed to only target the foreign substance they were made to fight.
If youve ever had a hepatitis C infection, your body will make hepatitis C antibodies as part of its immune response.
Your body only makes these antibodies if you have hepatitis C or had it in the past. So the hepatitis C antibody test can confirm whether you have the virus by testing for these specific antibodies.
If the antibody test is positive, an HCV RNA test can show whether the infection is current.
While people of any gender experience the same hepatitis C symptoms, 2014 research suggested some effects of the virus may differ, depending on the sex you were assigned at birth.
Researchers noted that:
- women have a higher chance of clearing the virus without treatment
- liver disease may progress more rapidly in men
- men have a higher chance of developing cirrhosis
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Could I Give Hepatitis C To Someone Else
Yes, once you have hepatitis C, you can always give it to someone else. If you have hepatitis C, you cannot donate blood. You should avoid sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes. It is very rare to pass hepatitis C in these ways, but it can happen. Always use a condom when you have sex. If you have hepatitis C, your sexual partners should be tested to see if they also have it.
Talk to your doctor first if you want to have children. The virus isnt spread easily from a mother to her unborn baby. But it is possible, so you need to take precautions. However, if youre trying to have a baby, do not have sex during your menstrual cycle. The hepatitis C virus spreads more easily in menstrual blood.
Getting Tested Is The Only Way To Know If You Have Hepatitis C
A blood test called a hepatitis C antibody test can tell if you have been infected with the hepatitis C viruseither recently or in the past. If you have a positive antibody test, another blood test is needed to tell if you are still infected or if you were infected in the past and cleared the virus on your own.
- Are 18 years of age and older
- Are pregnant
- Currently inject drugs
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have HIV
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
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How Can Hepatitis C Affect My Child In The Long Term
Children with hepatitis C can lead completely normal lives, attend school and play sports without any special arrangements.
If left untreated or if treatment fails, chronic hepatitis C can last for decades. During that time, it can progressively damage the liver and lead to such complications as cirrhosis and liver cancer. When they become older, children with hepatitis C should avoid drinking alcohol, as it can make the disease progress more quickly.
If the liver begins to fail because of the hepatitis and its complications, your child may need a liver transplant. While hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for an adult to receive a liver transplant, it is not a common reason among children.
Can Hepatitis C Be Treated
Yes, since 2010 enormous progress has been made in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. New therapies called direct-acting antivirals are pills that act on the virus itself to eradicate it from the body, unlike older medicines like interferon injections which work by stimulating an immune response. These new treatments are very effective and can achieve cure rates of over 90%. In most situations now, there is no need for interferon, which was responsible for many of the side effects previously associated with HCV treatment. The new treatment combinations require shorter treatment durations , have reduced side effects and appear to be effective at all stages of the disease.
Because these new therapies are very new, they remain very expensive. As such, drug coverage from both government and private companies may require that your liver disease has progressed to a certain stage before they are willing to cover the cost of these drugs.
Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist to determine whether you are eligible for treatment. A specialist will help you decide which drug therapy is best for you based on the severity of your liver disease, your virus genotype and whether or not you have been treated in the past.
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Stages Of Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus affects people in different ways and has several stages:
- Incubation period. This is the time between first exposure to the start of the disease. It can last anywhere from 14 to 80 days, but the average is 45
- Acute hepatitis C. This is a short-term illness that lasts for the first 6 months after the virus enters your body. After that, some people who have it will get rid of, or clear, the virus on their own.
- Chronic hepatitis C. For most people who get hepatitis C — up to 85% — the illness moves into a long-lasting stage . This is called a chronic hepatitis C infection and can lead to serious health problems like liver cancer or cirrhosis.
- Cirrhosis. This disease leads to inflammation that, over time, replaces your healthy liver cells with scar tissue. It usually takes about 20 to 30 years for this to happen, though it can be faster if you drink alcohol or have HIV.
- Liver cancer. Cirrhosis makes liver cancer more likely. Your doctor will make sure you get regular tests because there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.
Learn more about the stages and progression of hepatitis C.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
People with acute hepatitis C infection usually dont have symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they typically develop within two to twelve weeks of becoming infected.1 Symptoms may include:
- Joint pain
Its important to know that you can spread the infection to someone else even if you have no symptoms.
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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:
What Happens During A Percutaneous Biopsy
Before this medical procedure, a doctor will explain what is going to happen and talk about any risks involved. A person needing a liver biopsy should tell the doctor about any prescribed and over-the-counter medicines or supplements they are taking, as they may need to stop taking them before the procedure.
For the procedure itself, the person lies face-up on the bed, with their right arm above their head. After administering a local anesthetic to the appropriate area, the doctor will make a small cut to the skin and insert the biopsy needle.
Doctors take the tissue sample as the person exhales. So the doctor may ask them to breathe out and hold their breath.
Once the doctor removes the needle, they apply pressure to the wound and ask the person to lie on their right-hand side for up to 2 hours. Medical staff will continue to monitor the person and check for signs of bleeding for at least another 2 hours.
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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
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 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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Hepatitis C The Liver Hormones And Recovery
The liver has many important functions in the body, but one that is not talked about much is the livers role in regulating hormones. This role is important because when we suffer liver damage from Hep C the liver does not regulate hormones properly. This side effect of having Hepatitis C has many consequences, including emotional instability that can lead to depression or anxiety.
Hep C induced hormonal imbalances can also lead to things like hair loss, breast enlargement in men, and unexpected weight gain, just to mention just a few things.
Liver damage caused by Hepatitis C can have profound effects on all the bodys hormones
Every day I get emails from people who are having health issues at various stages of having chronic Hepatitis C. Sometimes they are moving toward starting their Hep C treatment, sometimes they are in the middle of their Hep C treatment, and often they are months past the end of their Hep C treatment.
Today I had a few people write to me who were concerned about side effects from Hepatitis C that were persisting months after the completion of their successful Hep C treatment. They were wondering why they were still having these Hep C health issues even though the Hep C virus was long gone.
Today the main subjects discussed were:
1. Skin rashes and itchy skin.
2. Weight gain
The damage caused to your liver by Hepatitis C can lead to weight increases
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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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