What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C In Women
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection caused by the hepatitis C virus . There are different types of hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A, B, D, and E. Among the different viruses, hepatitis C is the most serious because it can be chronic and cause severe liver damage.
The virus spreads through contact with infected blood, so certain people have a higher risk of infection. This includes healthcare workers exposed to blood and drug users. Getting a tattoo or piercing with unsterilized equipment also increases the risk of infection.
Hepatitis C affects both men and women. As a whole, the symptoms and complications of the disease are the same for both sexes. But the virus can affect women differently.
Hepatitis C And Blood Spills
When cleaning and removing blood spills, use standard infection control precautions at all times:
- Cover any cuts or wounds with a waterproof dressing.
- Wear single-use gloves and use paper towel to mop up blood spills.
- Clean the area with warm water and detergent, then rinse and dry.
- Place used gloves and paper towels into a plastic bag, then seal and dispose of them in a rubbish bin.
- Wash your hands in warm, soapy water then dry them thoroughly.
- Put bloodstained tissues, sanitary towels or dressings in a plastic bag before throwing them away.
It’s Different Than Hepatitis A And B
Each form of hepatitis has its own specific virus that spreads and is treated differently. “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver, or that the virus has an affinity for hurting the liver,” Reau says.
- Hepatitis A is an acute, short-term infection that often does not require treatment.
- Hepatitis B hides deep in the body and, like hepatitis C, is treated in a variety of ways, from antiviral medications to liver transplants.
“The viruses are different, but all of them should be taken very seriously since they can lead to significant liver disease and even death,” she adds.
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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.
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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How Do People Get Hepatitis C
HCV spreads by direct contact with an infected person’s blood and other body fluids. This can happen through:
- sharing drug needles and intranasal drug devices
- getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterilized tools
- passing of the infection from a pregnant woman to her unborn child
It’s also rare, but possible, for someone to get HCV by sharing household items that might contain an infected person’s blood, such as razors, toothbrushes, or scissors.
How Is Liver Disease C Identified
Some women are unaware of an infection till a doctor discovers high liver enzymes on a regular liver function blood test. A high number of liver enzymes can represent liver inflammation.
Enzymes help the liver function, however they can leak into the bloodstream when theres damage to liver cells. A liver function test checks the blood for two main enzymes: alanine transaminase and aspartate transaminase .
A typical range for AST is 8 to 48 units per liter of serum, and a typical variety for ALT is 7 to 55 systems per liter of serum.
Elevated liver enzymes can indicate a liver issue. If your numbers are elevated and you have risk factors for liver disease C, your doctor might carry out additional testing to identify the cause of inflammation. This consists of screening your blood for HCV.
If testing confirms liver disease C, your doctor may likewise run a test to check your viral load, which reveals the amount of the virus in your blood. Furthermore, you might have a liver biopsy to figure out the severity of the disease.
Your doctor may not suspect liver disease C if your liver enzymes are within a regular range, and as a result, never suggest further screening. This is dangerous due to the fact that according to a report by the HCV Advocate, some specialists feel that the cut-off number for unusual liver test must really be lower for women than the number most labs use.
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How To Treat Hepatitis C
Treating Hepatitis C can only be done at a verified clinic after a proper STD check. Over the counter products and home remedies are never successful in treating Hepatitis C since the disease cannot be diagnosed sitting at home.
Since the symptoms of Hepatitis C are generally ignored in the initial stages of the exposure to virus, it is to be noted that any flu-like symptoms lasting for more than 10 days, should be checked even a simple blood test can reveal the HPV virus infection.
The causes of Hepatitis C are generally related to wrongful sexual activities and adoption of drugs and alcohol, which means an STD check or a panel test is highly recommended in both the cases. Even an individual does not face any symptoms, it is necessary to have a 6 month or at least an annual checkup in order to rule out any possibility of any hidden STD.
To maintain confidentiality and acquire quicker results, you can book an STD or a panel test with us. We maintain a strong protocol in terms of confidentiality and adopt minimal paperwork followed by quicker results within 3-5 business days. You can call us or book with us a slot online.
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.
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.
- 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.
Pregnancy And Hepatitis C
Should pregnant women be tested for HCV antibodies?
Yes. All pregnant women should be screened for anti-HCV during each pregnancy, except in settings where the prevalence of HCV infection is < 0.1% . Pregnant women with known risk factors should be tested during each pregnancy, regardless of setting prevalence. Any pregnant women testing positive for anti-HCV should receive a PCR test for HCV RNA to determine current infection status.
Can a mother with hepatitis C infect her infant during birth?
The overall risk of an infected mother transmitting HCV to her infant is approximately 4%8% per pregnancy . Transmission occurs during pregnancy or childbirth, and no prophylaxis is available to protect the newborn from infection. The risk is significantly higher if the mother has a high HCV viral load, or is coinfected with HIV with which the rate of transmission ranges from 8%15% . Most infants infected with HCV at birth have no symptoms.
Should a woman with hepatitis C be advised against breastfeeding?
When should children born to HCV-infected mothers be tested to see if they were infected at birth?
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How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted
Because HCV is primarily spread through contact with infected blood, people who inject drugs are at increased risk for HCV infection. HCV can also be transmitted from an infected mother to child at the time of birth, from unregulated tattoos or body piercings, and from sharing personal items that may be contaminated with infected blood, even in amounts too small to see. Much less often, HCV transmission occurs through sexual contact with an HCV-infected partner, especially among people with multiple sex partners and men who have sex with men. Currently in the United States, health care related transmission of HCV is rare, but people can become infected from accidental needle sticks and from breaches in infection control practices in health care facilities.
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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Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis C
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who
- have injected drugs
- 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
What Is Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. In time, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure.
Some people who get the infection have it for a short time and then get better. But most people who have it go on to develop a long-term infection. Many people don’t know that they have the virus until they already have some liver damage. This can take many years.
Treatment can usually cure 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 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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Acute Hepatitis C Vs Chronic Hepatitis C
Acute and chronic hepatitis C are caused by the same virus.
Acute hepatitis C develops after initial infection with the HCV. This stage can last up to 6 months. Many people have no symptoms during the acute stage and never find out that they have the infection.
According to the CDC, of people with acute hepatitis C develop chronic hepatitis C.
The World Health Organization states that 15 to 45 percent of people with acute hepatitis C spontaneously clear the virus within 6 months. This means that the virus goes away even though it hasnt been treated.
The 55 to 85 percent of people who dont clear the virus will develop a chronic HCV infection.
Chronic hepatitis C can be managed with medications and even cured, but its still a serious condition. According to the CDC,
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
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
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What About Sex And Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be spread through sexual intercourse, but the risk is considered to be low. It is extremely rare among monogamous couples, meaning couples who only have sex with one another. The risk increases if you:
- Have multiple sex partners
- Have a sexually transmitted disease
- Are infected with HIV
There is no evidence that Hepatitis C is spread by oral sex.
To reduce the chance of getting or giving Hepatitis C through sexual contact, follow these guidelines:
- Use latex condoms every time you have sex, particularly if you have:
- More than one partner
- Rough sex that might make one of you bleed
- Sex during your or your partners menstrual period
- Sex when you or your partner has an open sore on either of your genitals
Who Should Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Talk to your doctor about getting tested for Hepatitis C if you:
- Are a current or former drug user who used needles to inject, even if you only did this one time or did it many years ago
- Have a sex partner who has chronic Hepatitis C or have had many sex partners
- Had your blood filtered by a machine for a long period of time because your kidneys werent working
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant from a donor before July 1992
- Received a blood clotting factor to treat a bleeding disorder before 1987
- Are a healthcare worker and were exposed to blood through a needle stick or had other contact with blood or bodily fluids
- Have evidence of liver disease, such as abnormal liver tests
- Were born between 1945 and 1965. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time screening for all baby boomers.
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