What Are The Most Common Signs And Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
It sounds strange, but there really are no symptoms of hep C. In fact, about half of people with hep C don’t even know they’re infected, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Those who do have symptoms may experience minor issues like fatigue and muscle aches, which can be chalked up to any number of reasons, like an intense workout or just life in general. But because these symptoms are so ubiquitous, theyre easy to miss, and you likely wouldnt associate them with hep C.
How Should I Take Care Of Myself If I Have Hepatitis C
Good health habits are essential for those who have hepatitis C. You should especially avoid alcohol and medicines and drugs that can put stress on the liver. You should eat a healthy diet and start exercising regularly. Your family doctor can help you plan a diet that is healthy and practical.
Talk to your doctor about any medicines that you are taking, including over-the-counter medicine. Many medicines, including acetaminophen , are broken down by the liver. Because of this, they may increase the speed of liver damage. You should also limit alcohol use. It speeds the progression of liver diseases like hepatitis C. An occasional alcoholic drink may be okay, but check with your doctor first.
What Other Tests Diagnose Hepatitis C
Once the diagnosis of hepatitis C is established, other tests may be done to determine whether the patient has developed liver fibrosis or scarring . This can be done with a needle biopsy of the liver, and examining the biopsied liver tissue under the microscope. Liver biopsy is less commonly done today because noninvasive tests are more readily available, more easily accomplished and less costly.
Liver imaging can evaluate fibrosis using ultrasound and MRI scans. Additionally, calculations using a variety of blood tests also can predict the degree of inflammation and fibrosis present. Genotype testing will typically be done to determine what subtype of hepatitis C the patient has, as this will impact what drugs are used for treatment.
With the newest forms of antiviral treatment, the most common types of chronic hepatitis C can be cured in most individuals.
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What Is Chronic Hepatitis C
Doctors refer to hepatitis C infections as either acute or chronic:
- An acute HCV infection is a short-term illness that clears within 6 months of when a person is exposed to the virus.
- A person who still has HCV after 6 months is said to have a chronic hepatitis C infection. This is a long-term illness, meaning the virus stays in the body and can cause lifelong illness. An estimated 3.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic HCV.
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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How Much Does The Test Cost
The cost of hepatitis C testing depends on the tests that are performed, where the test is conducted, and a patients health insurance coverage. When testing is ordered by a doctor, patients with health insurance may find it helpful to discuss the cost of hepatitis C testing with their insurance company. In addition to the cost of testing, there may be other out-of-pocket costs such as copays and deductibles.
For patients without health insurance, or for whom insurance doesnt cover the cost of testing, it may be helpful to discuss the cost of hepatitis C testing with a doctor or hospital administrator.
At-home hepatitis C testing starts around $49. Some at-home kits test for multiple types of viral hepatitis at once, with the cost of these panels starting around $80.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Hcv Infection
Most people with HCV have no symptoms. But even without symptoms, they can develop health problems decades later and can still pass the disease to others.
- darker than usual urine or gray-colored stools
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Who Gets Hepatitis C
Baby boomers are most likely to have the infection, but we’re not sure why. Some boomers were infected before blood screening methods changed in 1992. Others got it from injecting drugs, even if it was only once. If you were born between 1945 and 1965, the CDC suggests you get tested for hepatitis C.
Should You Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Since you can live with hep C for decades without knowing itit can take 10 to 40 years for hep C to progress from mild disease to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancerthe Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time blood screening test for anyone born between 1945 and 1965. This population is more at risk of having received a tainted blood transfusion.
Hepatitis C can only be diagnosed through a simple blood test called an HCV antibody test. True to its name, it looks for antibodies, proteins released into the bloodstream, that show up in someone infected with the hep C virus. If you have a positive HCV antibody test, youll then be given a follow-up HCV RNA test to learn whether you have an active infection.
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You Can Have It And Not Know It
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus . HCV is far more infectious than HIV. Presently, there is no vaccine to prevent HCV infection.
In 2011, it is estimated that over 220,000 people in Canada were infected with HCV. In 2012, 10,180 new cases of hepatitis C were reported in Canada. It has been estimated that over 40% of people living with chronic hepatitis C don’t even know they are infected.
About 15 to 25 percent of adults will recover within 6 months of becoming infected . The remaining 75 to 85 percent are unable to clear the virus and will become chronically infected. Chronic hepatitis C is treatable and in some instances can be cured.
Why is hepatitis C a health concern?
Many people infected with HCV do not know they have the virus because symptoms can take two to six months to appear and the majority of people will not develop symptoms. During this time, they can spread the infection to others. You may not know you have this infection until damage has already been done to your liver. Potential complications from chronic hepatitis C include cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and premature death.
Why do I need my liver?
How is hepatitis C virus spread?
The most common risk factors for HCV infection include:
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
How can I find out if I have hepatitis C?
How can I protect myself and others against HCV?
What if I have hepatitis C?
More Ways To Reduce The Risk Of Infection
If you arent sure whether you have hepatitis C, get tested. Testing is especially important if you have sex with more than one person or if you have other risk factors for hepatitis C, including being born being 1945 and 1965, having had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, and injecting drugs .
Talk to your partner about getting tested as well, for hepatitis C and other STDs, so you know the risks before having sex. People who are at risk for hepatitis C are also at risk for HIV and other STDs, emphasizes Talal.
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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
What Other Conditions Does Blood Screening Identify
donate organs to people who do not have these antibodies.
Before this, organ transplants from people with HCV were allowed, but under the label of increased risk. In 2017, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network reported that doctors were less likely to use organs from increased risk donors.
The OPTN added that this is likely based on a misconception of what the term means, as studies have shown that people who receive organs from increased risk donors have equal or better post-graft survival rates than those with non-increased risk transplants.
The new stress the continuing importance of testing, informed consent from the recipient, and follow-up tests to determine the HCV status of the recipient after transplant.
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Awareness Prevention And Early Diagnosis Are Essential
There’s a good reason why hepatitis C is known as a “silent killer.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis C infection, which is transmitted through infected bodily fluids like blood and semen, and causes inflammation of the liver. Yet up to 75% of people who have hepatitis C aren’t aware they have it.
Most of those living with the virus experience only mild symptoms or don’t have any symptoms at all until they develop serious liver damage or another life-threatening liver disease. Unfortunately, that means they aren’t getting diagnosed and treatment is delayed until the later stages when irreversible liver damage has occurred.
Here, hepatologistNancy Reau, MD, associate director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program at Rush University Medical Center, explains who is at risk for hepatitis C and offers advice to help you protect yourself.
When To Contact A Doctor
If a person has been in an environment where there is a risk of exposure to HCV, such as during a tattoo, and is experiencing any HCV symptoms, they should contact a doctor. The earlier a doctor can diagnose HCV, the earlier treatment may begin to clear the infection and prevent any long-term damage.
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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.
Hepatitis C Testing And Diagnosis
Doctors will start by checking your blood for:
Anti-HCV antibodies: These are proteins your body makes when it finds the hep C virus in your blood. They usually show up about 12 weeks after infection.
It usually takes a few days to a week to get results, though a rapid test is available in some places.
The results can be:
- Nonreactive, or negative:
- That may mean you donât have hep C.
- If youâve been exposed in the last 6 months, youâll need to be retested.
If your antibody test is positive, youâll get this test:
HCV RNA: It measures the number of viral RNA particles in your blood. They usually show up 1-2 weeks after youâre infected.
- The results can be:
- Negative: You donât have hep C.
- Positive: You currently have hep C.
You might also get:
Liver function tests: They measure proteins and enzyme levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after youâre infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C. Learn the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
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Should I Be Screened For Hepatitis C
Doctors usually recommend one-time screening of all adults ages 18 to 79 for hepatitis C. Screening is testing for a disease in people who have no symptoms. Doctors use blood tests to screen for hepatitis C. Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have hepatitis C. Screening tests can help doctors diagnose and treat hepatitis C before it causes serious health problems.
How Do You Test For Hepatitis C
A simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have the virus. You may also be given an extra test to see if your liver is damaged.
If youve got hepatitis C you should be tested for other STIs. It’s important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have hepatitis C do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on. It can also stop you from getting the infection again.
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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.
How To Avoid Spreading Hepatitis C
- Tell the people that you live with or have sex with about your illness as soon as you can.
- Don’t share needles to inject drugs. Don’t share other equipment with others. Find out if a needle exchange program is available in your area, and use it. Get into a drug treatment program.
- Practice safer sex. Reduce your number of sex partners if you have more than one. Unless you are in a long-term relationship in which neither partner has sex with anyone else, always use latex condoms when you have sex.
- Don’t donate blood or blood products, organs, semen, or eggs .
- Make sure that all equipment is sterilized if you get a tattoo, have your body pierced, or have acupuncture.
- Do not share your personal items. These include razors, toothbrushes, towels, and nail files.
- Tell your doctor, dentist, and anyone else who may come in contact with your blood about your illness.
- Prevent others from coming in contact with your blood and other body fluids. Keep any cuts, scrapes, or blisters covered.
- Wash your handsâand any object that has come in contact with your bloodâthoroughly with water and soap.
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When Should I Get Hepatitis C Testing
When used for early detection in patients without symptoms of hepatitis C, screening is recommended at least once for all adults aged 18 years or older, except in locations with very low prevalence of HCV. Screening is also recommended during pregnancy and for patients of any age with risk factors for HCV infection. In patients with risk factors, periodic screening is recommended for as long as risk factors persist.
Risk factors for HCV include:
- Current or past injectable drug use
- Having a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Receiving kidney dialysis
- Pain in the abdomen or joints
- Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Jaundice or yellowish skin and eyes
Hepatitis C testing may also be performed when liver tests are abnormal or when diagnosing the cause of existing liver damage.