Tuesday, May 17, 2022

How To Know If I Have Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C Screening: Questions For The Doctor

How is Hepatitis C spread? — Mayo Clinic
  • Talking with the Doctor
  • Hepatitis C Screening: Questions for the doctor
  • Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus . The most common way to get hepatitis C is by coming into contact with the blood of someone who has it.

    Everyone ages 18 to 79 needs to get tested for hepatitis C at least once.

    Many people who have hepatitis C live for years without feeling sick. But the virus can still damage your liver even when there arent any symptoms. You could also spread the virus to others without knowing it.

    The only way to know for sure if you have hepatitis C is to get a blood test. Medicine can cure most cases of hepatitis C.

    What Is Hepatitis C Infection How Many People Are Infected

    Hepatitis C virus infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus . It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 41,200 new cases of hepatitis C occurred in 2016. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. About 75%-85% of newly infected people become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than 2 million people are estimated to be chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. HCV infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer. In 2016, 18,153 death certificates listed HCV as a contributing cause of death this is believed to be an underestimate.

    Those who have cirrhosis from HCV also have a yearly risk of liver cancer of about 1%-5%.

    Who Is At High Risk And Should Be Tested For Hepatitis C Infection

    The U.S. Preventive Health Services task force recommends that all adults born between 1945 and 1965 be tested once routinely for hepatitis C, regardless of whether risk factors for hepatitis C are present. One-time testing also is recommended for:

    • People who currently inject drugs or snort drugs, or ever did so, even once many years previously
    • People with persistently elevated alanine aminotransferase level, a liver enzyme found in blood
    • People who have HIV infection
    • Children born to HCV- or HIV-infected mothers
    • People who were ever on long-term hemodialysis
    • People who got a tattoo in an unregulated setting, such as prison or by an unlicensed person
    • People who received clotting factor produced before 1987
    • People who received transfusions or organ transplants before July 1992, or who were notified that they received blood from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C infection
    • Health care, emergency medical, and public safety workers after a needlestick, eye or mouth exposure to hepatitis C-infected blood

    People who may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the previous 6 months should be tested for viral RNA load rather than anti-HCV antibody, because antibody may not be present for up to 12 weeks or longer after infection, although HCV RNA may be detectable in blood as soon as 2-3 weeks after infection.

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    All Adults Pregnant Women And People With Risk Factors Should Get Tested For Hepatitis C

    Most people who get infected with hepatitis C virus develop a chronic, or lifelong, infection. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. People can live without symptoms or feeling sick, so testing is the only way to know if you have hepatitis C. Getting tested is important to find out if you are infected so you can get lifesaving treatment that can cure hepatitis C.

    What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment

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    The direct acting antiviral regimens used to treat hepatitis C today are extremely well tolerated. You may experience mild side effects like headache or fatigue. For details on the side effects, review the handout specific to medication you take.

    In rare instances, providers may recommend the addition of the medication ribavirin for more difficult cases of hepatitis C. Ribavirin may cause additional side effects such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, anemia, or rash. Patients who receive ribavirin may need more frequent monitoring for side effects as well as adjustment of the dose if side effects are experienced. For detailed information on ribavirin, patients should review the ribavirin handout.

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    Hepatitis C Symptoms & Treatment

    FAST FACTS:

    • 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.

    How Do I Find Out If I Have Hepatitis C

    There is a simple blood test for hepatitis C that is available through your doctor, walk-in clinic, or local health clinic. Consider getting tested for hepatitis C if you have:

    • Ever shared injection drugs or drug-related equipment for injecting or inhaling drugs. Drug use even one time in your life many years ago can put you at risk.
    • Have tattoos or piercings that may have been done with unsterile or contaminated equipment
    • Received blood or blood products before 1992
    • Had unprotected sex with a person who has hepatitis C

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    How Can I Make Sure That I Dont Pass The Infection To Someone Else

    Hepatitis C is passed from one person to another through direct blood contact. Avoid high-risk behaviors such as intravenous drug use, unprotected sex outside of a monogamous relationship, and sharing razor blades or toothbrushes, Nelson says. That being said, you dont need to isolate yourself. You cant spread this virus by hugging or kissing kids, family, and friends, he adds. Its okay to carry on a normal life.

    What Does It Mean When Different Types Of Blood Tests For Hepatitis C Give Different Results

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    The first test your provider probably will perform is called an “antibody” test. A positive result means that you were exposed to the hepatitis C virus at some point in your life.

    If the result is positive, your provider will perform a second test called hepatitis C virus RNA to see if the virus is still in your body. If the RNA test result is positive, then you have chronic hepatitis C infection.

    So what does it mean if you have a positive result for the first test but a negative result for the second?

  • The most likely explanation is that you were infected with hepatitis C but your own immune system fought off the virus. This means you do not have chronic hepatitis C infection, and are not at risk of any medical problems related to hepatitis C.
  • The second possible explanation is that you were infected with hepatitis C but the amount of virus in your body is too small to be detected by the standard test. If someone had virus that was present but such a low amount that the test wasn’t able to detect it, then there could be a “false negative HCV RNA” test. But the newest techniques used by labs for HCV RNA are extremely sensitive and can detect as few as 12 copies of the virus . So, this scenario is possible where you could have a false negative test, but it is unlikely.
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    Other Risks Can Include:

    • Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another persons blood, such as razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
    • Inoculation practices involving multiple use needles or immunization air guns
    • Exposure of broken skin to HCV infected blood
    • HIV infected persons

    People with current or past risk behaviors should consider HCV testing and consult with a physician. HCV testing is currently not available at most public health clinics in Missouri. For information about HCV testing that is available, call the HCV Program Coordinator at 573-751-6439.

    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.

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    Hepatitis C And Injecting Drugs

    If you inject drugs, avoid sharing needles, syringes or other equipment such as tourniquets, spoons, swabs or water.

    Where possible, always use sterile needles and syringes. These are available free of charge from needle and syringe programs and some pharmacists. To find out where you can obtain free needles, syringes and other injecting equipment, contact DirectLine

    Try to wash your hands before and after injecting. If you cant do this, use hand sanitiser or alcohol swabs from a needle and syringe program service.

    How Do You Prevent Hepatitis C

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    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.

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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.

    If You Have Hepatitis C Can You Have Sex Without Infecting Your Partner

    Hepatitis C is a virus that is transmitted by blood. The most common ways people become infected with hepatitis C are through needle sharing, such as during injection drug use, or from blood transfusions received before 1992.

    Becoming infected from sex is not common, but it does happen. If you have hepatitis C, the chance of infecting a sex partner is higher if you are with a new partner or if you have had many different partners over time. If you have hepatitis C, the chance of infecting a sex partner is lower if you are with a longtime stable partner and if you are in a monogamous relationship.

    If your sex partner is new to you, or if you have many different partners, it is safer if you use condoms during sex to reduce the chance of transmitting hepatitis C.

    It is always best to talk directly with your health care provider to assess whether you should start using condoms. If you are in a sexual relationship and either you or your partner has hepatitis C, the other partner should be tested for hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted viruses once a year, or as advised by your provider.

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    What Type Of Doctor Treats Hepatitis C

    Hepatitis C is treated by either a gastroenterologist, a hepatologist , or an infectious disease specialist. The treatment team may include more than one specialist, depending on the extent of liver damage.Surgeons who specialize in surgery of the liver, including liver transplantation, are part of the medical team and should see patients with advanced disease early, before the patient needs a liver transplant. They may be able to identify issues that need to be addressed before surgery can be considered. Other persons who can be helpful in managing patients include dietitians to consult on nutritional issues and pharmacists to assist with management of drugs.

    How Do You Know If You Have Cirrhosis

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    Cirrhosis

    Often, you cannot know whether you have cirrhosis until the disease is advanced. Only your health care provider can tell you if you have cirrhosis.

    There are many signs of cirrhosis that your provider may find. You may have red palms or small spider-like veins on your face or your body. You may have developed fluid in your abdomen.

    Your provider may order blood tests that point to cirrhosis. Other tests can also give your provider a good idea of whether you have cirrhosis, such as an ultrasound, a CAT scan, an MRI, or a special kind of ultrasound that measures the amounts of stiffness in your liver .

    Sometimes, you may need a liver biopsy. A liver biopsy shows how much scarring your liver has and will help your health care provider figure out what is causing the damage and how best to treat it.

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    Will The Baby Be Infected If The Mother Or Father Has Hepatitis C

    The baby’s risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C in the womb varies, depending on whether the parent with hepatitis C is the father or the mother.

    If the mother is infected, whether or not the father is infected, there is a 5% chance that the baby will be born with hepatitis C. The risk is the same regardless of whether the birth occurs by vaginal delivery or by cesarean section. The risk is higher if the mother is also living with HIV.

    If the father has hepatitis C but the mother does not, the baby cannot become infected because a father cannot pass the virus directly to a baby. If the father first passes the virus to the mother through sex, then the baby possibly could be infected by the mother. However, the chance of the virus being transmitted both from father to mother and then from mother to baby is almost zero.

    All children born to HCV-infected women should be tested for HCV infection. Testing is recommended using an antibody-based test at or after 18 months of age. Approximately 25-50 % infants with hepatitis C will clear the infection without any medical help by age 4. For those who become chronically infected, most have no symptoms .

    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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