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.
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
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.
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Who Should Get Tested
You should consider getting tested for hepatitis C if you’re worried you could have been infected or you fall into one of the groups at an increased risk of being infected.
- Hepatitis C often has no symptoms, so you may still be infected if you feel healthy.
- The following groups of people are at an increased risk of hepatitis C:
- ex-drug users and current drug users, particularly users of injected drugs
- people who received blood transfusions before September 1991
- recipients of organ or tissue transplants before 1992
- people who have lived or had medical treatment in an area where hepatitis C is common high risk areas include North Africa, the Middle East and Central and East Asia
- babies and children whose mothers have hepatitis C
- anyone accidentally exposed to the virus, such as health workers
- people who have received a tattoo or piercing where equipment may not have been properly sterilised
- sexual partners of people with hepatitis C
If you continue to engage in high-risk activities, such as injecting drugs frequently, regular testing may be recommended. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
What Are The Complications Of Undiagnosed Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C is known to be associated with two skin conditions, lichen planus and porphyria cutanea tarda.
- Diabetes, heart disease, and arterial blockage are more common among patients with chronic hepatitis C infection than in the general population. It may be that liver damage and chronic inflammation caused by hepatitis C may affect the levels of blood fats and blood sugar.
- Low platelet counts may occur as a result of the destruction of platelets by antibodies.
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Whats The Short Answer
Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted by sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs. It can also be transmitted through exposure to blood or other bodily fluids during sexual activity.
Acute hepatitis C occurs within the first 6 months after exposure. A hepatitis C infection that lasts longer than 6 months is considered chronic. If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
What The Cdc Recommends
Were you born between 1945 and 1965? If so, then youre a member of the Hepatitis C generation. The CDC recently recommended that all people born between during this time have a 1-time screening test for Hepatitis C. We now have new drugs that can treat and cure Hepatitis C so you should go get tested today.
The life you save may be your own! Please contact your local healthcare provider.
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When To See A Doctor
Whats galling about hepatitis C is that it all-too-often goes undetected for a long time some carry it for 10-20 years without any signs. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above-listed symptoms, of course, seek out treatment as soon as possible. The best bet, oftentimes, is screening for this disease to prevent its progression.
In the US, an estimated 3.5 million people have hepatitis Cthats over 2 million menand around half of these carry it without knowing it.
Testing for hepatitis C can be of paramount importance for certain groups of men. These include:
It never hurts to be safe with the number of people who carry this disease unknowingly, care should certainly be taken. That said, with regular testing and prompt treatment, hepatitis C can be taken on.
If you have hepatitis C or believe you do, the best bet is to be proactive. Seek out the care you need and talk to loved ones and family the sooner you get on the path towards treatment, the better off youll be. With the right support system, this disease can be taken on and eradicated.
What Happens If Someone Has Hepatitis C And Hiv
When someone has both Hepatitis C and HIV, it is often referred to as HCV-HIV co-infection. This means that you have two infections in your body at the same time. HIV, the term for human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS. You can find more detailed information about HIV and AIDS on several Web sties, including:
HCV-HIV co-infection is fairly common. Overall, about one-third of all Americans infected with HIV also have Hepatitis C. And the rate of co-infection is much higher among injection drug users. More than half of people who have HIV and use injection drugs are also infected with Hepatitis C.
People that are co-infected can be effectively treated. However, since there are two infections to deal with managing them is more complicated. There is no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled. Hepatitis C can be treated successfully. Working closely with a doctor who specializes in managing co-infections will give you the best chance for successful treatment.
There are specific risks associated with co-infection. Having HIV, in addition to Hepatitis C, does the following:
- Quickens Hepatitis C disease progression
- Triples the risk for liver disease, liver failure and liver-related death
- Increases the chance that Hepatitis C will be sexually transmitted
- Increases the chance that a mother will infect her unborn child with Hepatitis C
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Complications Of Chronic Hepatitis C
Unless successfully treated with medication, chronic Hepatitis C infection can cause other serious health problems, such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. However, with recent advances in Hepatitis C treatment we now have higher cure rates, shorter treatment times, and all-oral treatment regimens for most people. If youre at risk for Hepatitis C, speak to your healthcare provider today about getting tested.
Symptoms Of Your Diagnosis
One of main symptoms of hepatitis C is jaundice, a yellow color to the skin or whites of the eyes. The jaundice is caused by the excess bilirubin in the blood. The excess bilirubin can also lead to other symptoms such as pale or clay-colored stools, dark urine and generalized itching. Flu-like symptoms of fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and low-grade fever may occur several days before the jaundice appears.
If chronic hepatitis C develops, the symptoms can vary. Some individuals may remain well. Others will have severe and persistent liver inflammation. This may eventually lead to scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis, and liver failure. The scarring does not allow the liver to do its job of removing toxic substances from the blood.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
See your GP if you persistently have any of the later symptoms listed, or if they keep returning. They may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C.
Read more about diagnosing hepatitis C
None of these symptoms mean you definitely have hepatitis C, but it’s important to get them checked out.
You should also speak to your GP about getting tested if there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This particularly includes people who inject drugs or have done so in the past.
Read about the causes of hepatitis C for more information about who’s at risk of having the infection.
Page last reviewed: 27 October 2021 Next review due: 27 October 2024
Diagnosing Acute From Chronic Infection
In some cases, your healthcare provider may be able to determine whether your HCV is acute or chronic based on your screening results. For example, if you routinely get screenings and had no history of HCV in the past 6 months, then your case is likely acute.
Your provider can also repeat the RNA test about six weeks after your initial screening and compare results of your viral levels . Consistent, high levels of viral RNA may suggest that your HCV is chronic, whereas fluctuating, low levels suggest that its acute.
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Identifying The Early Signs Of Hepatitis
Once you discover that you have hepatitis, you must take immediate steps to stop the disease from spreading. If you have recently developed hepatitis, there are treatment options available. However, time is the single most important aspect of this disease because if you wait too long you might develop liver complications. If you find out that you have a type of hepatitis that has progressed to the chronic stage, you must learn how to manage your condition.
You might inadvertently be doing activities that worsen the effects of hepatitis. For instance, people with this ailment should avoid alcohol as it can damage the liver and make it harder for his body to resist infection.
A poor diet can also exacerbate hepatitis.
When you discover that you have hepatitis, you need to adopt a lifestyle that increases the odds of successful treatment. You can do this by improving your diet.
There are three broad categories of hepatitis treatments:
Antiviral medications can be useful in treating hepatitis. The pills are usually taken once a day and work effectively to combat the virus, preventing it from spreading.
The objective of these pills is to eliminate the virus from the infected parts of the body and to stop or slow down damage to his liver. Hopefully this neutralizes the chance of developing cirrhosis and scarring of the liver.
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What Is The Treatment Provided For Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D has no cure. It can only be prevented from being severe and can be managed to control the severity of the disease.
As soon as the detection of hepatitis D is done, you should contact your health care provider immediately to avoid further complications.
Pegylated interferon-alpha is generally recommended for hepatitis D virus infection this medication is taken once daily by mouth.
This treatment may last at least 48 weeks, irrespective of the patients response.
Most of the time, viruses tend to give a low rate of response to the treatment, but the treatment is associated with a lower likelihood of progression of the disease.
More concentration on the need to reduce the burden of chronic hepatitis B is seen.
The treatment with minimal side effects or no side effects is recommended to compensate for conditions like cirrhosis , autoimmune disease , and active psychiatric conditions.
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Kinds Of Liver Cancer
Primary liver cancer
Dr Mitra says Hepatocellular carcinoma constitutes approximately 90 percent of all primary liver cancer and that Hepatoblastoma and hepatic cholangiocarcinoma are the other two major variants of primary liver cancer.
Secondary liver cancer
Also known as metastatic liver cancer, these tumours are the most common malignancy found in liver. When the primary cancer is present in some other organ in the body and tumour cells spreads to liver by hematogenous route then we can have these metastatic or secondary liver cancer. Most common secondary liver cancer is found from primary tour in colon, rectum, breast, kidney and gall bladder and pancreas.
Checking Your Blood Labs
A lab test can give your doctor a clue that something is wrong. Get them done annually. However, please do not count on them. I had many labs tests with elevated liver enzymes only 1 time before my liver failed. A CBC and liver panel can offer clues to what is going on. The gold standard is to have your liver tested or biopsied to understand how the late warning signs of Hepatitis C are affecting your body. Your doctor may also look out for anemia due to varices bleeding, low plateletsdue to spleen health, or elevated ALT or AST .
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Symptoms Of An Acute Infection
Few people show symptoms during acute infection . These symptoms can include: fatigue tenderness or an aching feeling on the right side of the abdomen decreased appetite perhaps with weight loss flu-like symptoms nausea tendency to bruise or bleed easily jaundice rash dark-coloured urine and light or clay-coloured stools. These symptoms often go away after a short time.
Symptoms Of Infection With Hepatitis C
Symptoms of acute infection with hepatitis C
Acute infection is the period when you first contract the virus, during this period most people do not seem to experience any noticeable symptoms.
For the 25-35% of people who do, the symptoms are normally vague and non-specific.They can include: Abdominal pain Nausea and vomiting
About 20% of the people who develop symptoms experience jaundice. This can be seen in the yellowing of the skin and eyes. This is a sign of the livers functions being affected as bilirubin begins to build up in the body. Jaundice is a recognised sign of liver problems and may lead to a test for hepatitis C being suggested.The problem for most people is that they are unaware that they have been infected because of the lack of symptoms. As these symptoms are similar to many other short term infections most people are unlikely to seek medical attention.
And even when they do, most doctors will not necessarily suspect or test for hepatitis C.
Symptoms of chronic infection with hepatitis C
Chronic infection doesn’t mean that you have symptoms, chronic means that the infection is ongoing, that you are living with the virus.
The hepatitis C virus is associated with a wide spectrum of liver disease. This ranges from minor inflammation to cirrhosis, and in certain cases liver cancer.
Pains in the upper part of the abdomen
Dry eyes, irritable bowel and irritable bladder
Do not assume that all of your aches and pains are related to hepatitis.
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Skin Signs Of Liver Damage
Hepatitis C causes chronic inflammation of the liver, which over time causes progressive scarring known as fibrosis. Cirrhosis occurs when the scarring is severe enough to interfere with the function of the liver.
In rare cases, ongoing liver damage can cause cells to change at the genetic level, leading the hepatocellular carcinoma .
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.
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