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
Are There Supplements That Are Bad For My Liver
Taking too many vitamin and mineral supplements may do more harm than good to a damaged liver.
Who Can Be Treated For Hepatitis C
Treatment decisions should be made by both you and your provider. Current treatments for hepatitis C are very successful and can cure most people of the virus.
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Talking To Your Family
Bedrosian says you donât have to disclose your hep C status to your family unless you want to.
She explains that on its own, living with someone who has hep C isnât risky. You just need to take a few precautions. Donât share personal items that might have blood on them, like razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers. If you live with children, store these items out of reach.
If you do decide to talk to your family:
Explain that hep C virus spreads in different ways. You donât have to say how you got it.
Assure your family they canât catch hep C from you, even if you hug, kiss, or share food or utensils.
Tell them that hep C is curable. If caught at an early stage, hep C is curable about 98% of the time, says Robert Brown Jr., MD, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at New Yorkâs Weill Cornell Department of Medicine.
Donât be afraid to ask for your familyâs love and support, as well.
Whos At Risk For Hepatitis C
You might be more likely to get it if you:
- Inject or have injected street drugs
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Got clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplants before July 1992
- Got blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for hepatitis C
- Are on dialysis
- Get a body piercing or tattoo with nonsterile instruments
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Hepatitis C Symptoms & Treatment
Hepatitis C is found in infected blood. It is also rarely found in semen and vaginal fluids.
Hepatitis C is mainly passed on through using contaminated needles and syringes or sharing other items with infected blood on them. It can also be passed on through unprotected sex, especially when blood is present.
You can prevent hepatitis C by never sharing needles and syringes, practising safer sex, and avoiding unlicensed tattoo parlours and acupuncturists.
Hepatitis C will often not have any noticeable symptoms, but a simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have hepatitis C.
In the early stages, some peoples bodies can clear a hepatitis C infection on their own, others may develop chronic hepatitis C and will need to take antiviral treatment to cure the infection.
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can lead to permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis C is part of a group of hepatitis viruses that attack the liver.
Its mainly passed on through contaminated needles, either from injecting drugs or from needle stick injuries in healthcare settings. It can also be transmitted sexually, especially during anal sex or other types of sex that may involve blood.
Some groups are more at risk of getting hepatitis C than others, including people who use drugs, people in prisons, men who have sex with men, health workers and people living with HIV.
Articles On Hepatitis C
If you’ve just been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you may wonder how you got it and worry about passing on the virus to a loved one. If you’ve had the disease for a long time without knowing it, you could dwell on every little incident in the past where you might have accidentally exposed a family member to the disease.
It’s important to remember that hepatitis C isn’t easy to catch. If you take a few precautions, it’s almost impossible to pass on the disease to someone else.
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Ways You Wont Spread Hepatitis C
There are some ways in which you wont spread HCV, though. Go ahead and let your significant other have a bite of your sandwich or dessert. According to the CDC, hepatitis C isnt spread by sharing silverware or drinking glasses, or through water or foods. Showing affection by holding hands, hugging, or kissing is also safe, Lee says. And although germs from sneezing or coughing might cause you to get a cold, they wont give you hepatitis C.
What Are The Different Types Of Blood Tests How Often Should I Get These Tests Done
There are several different blood tests, or “labs” that your provider may order for you. The tests measure the amounts of various proteins and enzymes that the liver produces. This is a way of finding out how damaged the liver is. Your provider can determine how often each test needs to be done. Please see Understanding Lab Tests for more details about the tests you may have.
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Who Gets Hepatitis C
Who gets hepatitis C?
Anyone can get hepatitis C virus. But unlike a cold or flu virus, HCV isn’t easy to catch. The virus is transmitted only by direct contact with human blood that contains the virus. There are several ways infection can occur. Those at risk of being infected with hepatitis C virus include:
What about tattooing?
Several studies have shown there is no link between licensed commercial tattooing parlors and HCV infection, “but transmission of Hepatitis C is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
The agency advises people thinking about getting tattoos or body piercing to consider the health risks. It’s possible to get infected with HCV, the CDC says, if the tools used have someone else’s blood on them, or if the piercer or tattoo artist fails to use proper hygiene, such as washing hands, sterilizing tools, and using disposable gloves.
Is it possible to contract HCV from a shared razor or toothbrush?
There are no documented cases of transmission, but the CDC warns that people should not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care items: They might have small amounts of infected blood on them.
The CDC stresses that the hepatitis C virus is NOT spread by casual contact or by breast feeding, hugging or kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing utensils, drinking glasses, food, or water.
Is sex safe?
Preventing the spread
Can The Results Of Liver Panel Tests Point To The Presence Of Hepatitis C
A “liver panel” usually includes tests called AST, ALT, bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, and some others. Abnormal results could show up in many different conditions, not just hepatitis C. And even if the results of a liver panel are normal, you might still have hepatitis C. So, the liver panel alone cannot tell your provider the answer.
Hepatitis C can be diagnosed only by blood tests that are specific to hepatitis C:
In short, if the results of one or more tests on a liver panel are abnormal, generally speaking, the tests should be repeated and confirmed. If the results remain abnormal, your provider should be prompted to look for the cause.
More important than using the liver panel, if you have risks of having been infected with hepatitis C then you should have the specific hepatitis C antibody test to determine if you have hepatitis C infection.
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What Does High/low Viral Load Mean
Viral load is the amount of virus present in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the amount of viral genetic material per milliliter of blood. The amount of virus does not predict how severe the liver disease is or will become. The level of the viral load does not tell us anything about the risk of liver damage or how sick someone is. In hepatitis C, it matters if virus is present or absent. Some treatment regimens can be shortened if the patient has a low viral load to start with, but most often, treatment regimens are the same for people with high hepatitis C viral loads or low viral loads.
The RNA test is essential for making the diagnosis of hepatitis C infection–having a positive RNA test is the definition of having infection. After the diagnosis is made, the RNA level does not need to be checked over and over unless it is checked during the time that the patient is undergoing treatment. During treatment, regular RNA tests are done to follow the dropping virus level until it reaches an undetectable state. But before treatment and after treatment, repeated RNA testing is not necessary.
Is There A Cure
Though there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, treatments can reduce the viral load to undetectable levels which is considered cured or in remission.
The virus is considered cured when it is not detected in your blood 12 weeks after treatment is completed. This is otherwise known as a sustained virologic response .
Hepatitis C is one of the most serious hepatitis viruses. However, with newer treatments developed over the past few years, the virus is much more manageable than it was in the past.
Current antiviral drugs that help cure hepatitis C may also help prevent the health complications of chronic liver disease.
The reports less than half of people who contract the hepatitis C virus may clear it from their bodies without treatment. For this group of people, the virus will be a short-term acute condition that goes away without treatment.
But for most people, acute hepatitis C will likely develop into a chronic condition that requires treatment.
Since the virus often doesnt produce symptoms until after more significant liver damage occurs, its important to get tested for hepatitis C if you think you might have been exposed.
approved the antiviral drug Mavyret for an 8-week treatment period for people with all genotypes of hepatitis C.
This treatment is now being used for many people instead of the 12-week treatment that was previously required.
Noninvasive ways to test for liver damage caused by hepatitis C are also now available to aid in diagnosis.
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What Are Genotypes And What Do They Mean
Viruses have genes, too. The genotype of virus you have can be one of six different groups, or genotypes. Most patients with hepatitis C in the United States have genotype 1a or 1b, but in other parts of the world, other genotypes are more common.
There isn’t a “better” or “worse” genotype to have. In the past , genotype 1 was the most difficult to successfully cure but this is no longer the case. All the new direct-acting antiviral medicines work extremely well in treating all genotypes. Sometimes genotype 3 is a little harder to cure, but in general, all genotypes now have extremely high likelihoods of being cured with hepatitis C treatment.
Should You Get Tested
The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 18 get tested for Hepatitis C. But you should especially consider being tested if you:
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Have used injected drugs
- Were born to a mother who had hepatitis C
- Were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987
- Got a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Have been a long-term hemodialysis patient
- Work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needle stick or other sharp object injury
If you get tested and find out you have hepatitis C, tell your sex partner and anyone else who may have been exposed to your blood, including through drug use.
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Encouraging Others To Get Tested For Hepatitis C
While the odds of passing on the hepatitis C virus are low, you should still tell anyone at risk that you have hepatitis C. You should tell sexual partners, spouses, and family members. Your infection may be difficult to discuss, but anyone at potential risk must know. That way, they can get tested and treated if needed. Read more on why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
Paul Berk, MD, professor of medicine and emeritus chief of the division of liver disease, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City chairman of the board, American Liver Foundation.
Alan Franciscus, executive director, Hepatitis C Support Project and editor-in-chief of HCV Advocate, San Francisco.
Thelma King Thiel, chair and CEO, Hepatitis Foundation International.
David Thomas, MD, professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore.
Howard J. Worman, MD, associate professor of medicine and anatomy and cell biology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York City.
The American Gastroenterological Association.
So Who Should Be Screened For Hepatitis C
Well, ideally everyone should be screened for hepatitis C. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that doctors should ideally screen all of their patients by checking to see if they meet the at-risk criteria. Hepatitis C should be routinely screened for in all adults at their routine medical visits, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
That criteria, according to the CDC, includes a long list of people:
- Current or former injection drug users
- Everyone born from 1945 to 1965
- Anyone who received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992
- Long-term hemodialysis patients
- People with known exposures to the hepatitis C virus, like healthcare workers after needle sticks involving blood from someone infected with hepatitis C
- People with HIV
- Children born to mothers with hepatitis C
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends screening for people in jail, those who snort drugs, and those who have received an unregulated tattoo.
Then, if someone is determined to be at risk, USPSTF recommendations say that blood sample should be taken and tested to see if it contains antibodies that react to the hepatitis C virus. Its followed by a second test that determines the level of the virus in the blood. When the tests are used together, it can accurately determine whether someone has a hepatitis C infection.
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Can I Get Reinfected With Hepatitis C
If you become infected with hepatitis C infection and then clear the virus , yes, it is possible for you to become infected again.
The chance of another infection with hepatitis C is much, much less than the chance of a first-time infection, but it is not impossible. It has happened in people who continue to use injection drugs, and some studies suggest that it happens even more often in people who are also HIV positive.
In other words, having had hepatitis C once does not make you “immune” to getting hepatitis C again.
The best way to avoid reinfection is to reduce risky behaviors that can result in exposure to the hepatitis C virus: Do not use injection drugs, do not share needles for any reason, avoid blood-to-blood exposures with others, and use condoms if you are sexually active with a new partner or with a partner who has used injection drugs.
The research in this area is ongoing, and we will continue to learn more about this very important topic. But for now, preventing re-exposure to the hepatitis C virus is the only sure way of avoiding infection and reinfection with hepatitis C.
Can Hcv Infection Be Prevented
The best protection against HCV is to never inject drugs. If you do inject drugs, always use new, sterile needles, and do not reuse or share needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment.
People, including people with HIV, can also take the following steps to reduce their risk of HCV infection:
- Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items that may come in contact with another personâs blood.
- If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the instruments used are sterile.
- Use condoms during sex. The risk of HCV infection through sexual contact is low, but the risk increases in people with HIV. Condoms also reduce the risk of HIV transmission and infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.
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