Hepatitis C Risk Factors
Regardless of your sex, the following factors put you at higher risk than the general population for hepatitis C infection:
- Being born between 1945 and 1965
- Using injection or intranasal drugs
- Having sex with an intravenous drug user
- Having a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or surgery prior to 1992
- Having gotten a tattoo in an unregulated environment
- Being exposed to blood from needles or sharp objects
Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults, according to the CDC.
Today, however, about 70 percent of new cases of hepatitis C result from injection drug use, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, a study published in 2017 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that women who inject drugs have a 38 percent higher risk of contracting hepatitis C than men who inject drugs.
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.
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.
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Reactive Or Positive Hepatitis C Antibody Test
- A reactive or positive antibody test means that Hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in time.
- Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus.
- A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you have Hepatitis C. A person will need an additional, follow-up test.
Persons for Whom HCV Testing Is Recommended
- Adults born from 1945 through 1965 should be tested once
- Those who:
- Ever injected drugs, including those who injected once or a few times many years ago
- Have certain medical conditions, including persons:
- who received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
- who were ever on long-term hemodialysis
- with persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels
- who have HIV infection
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How Can I Prevent Hepatitis C
Since there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, the best way to prevent hepatitis C infection is to avoid contact with the blood of infected people. This includes:
- If you shoot drugs, never share works with anyone. This includes all drug injection equipment that can get blood on or in it . Sterile syringes can be purchased over the counter in most pharmacies in Massachusetts by anyone 18 years of age or older. Find out about drug treatment programs that can help you stop using drugs.
- Only get tattoos or body piercings at places using sterile equipment and supplies.
- Never share razors, toothbrushes, or nail clippers
- The risk of sexual transmission is low, but use of latex condoms during vaginal or anal sex will reduce the risk even more
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What To Think About
Researchers are working to develop other treatments, including gene therapy and medicines that help control the immune system.
How Do You Get Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact.
Some ways the infection can be spread include:
- sharing unsterilised needles particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs
- sharing razors or toothbrushes
- from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
- through unprotected sex although this is very rare
In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past.
It’s estimated around half of those who inject drugs have been infected with the virus.
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What Are Signs Of Hepatitis C
When you first get hepatitis C, it is called acutehepatitis C. About 15% of people who have acutehepatitis C infection clear the virus from their bodies.The other 85% of people develop a chronic hepatitis C infection. Of these, 50 to 80%, if treated,may be cured.
Acute hepatitis C: Most people with acutehepatitis C do not have any signs. If signs occur, theaverage time is 6-7 weeks after exposure, but can beless or more. Some people can have mild to severesigns including:
- Yellow skin or eyes
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Causes Of Hepatitis C
You can become infected with hepatitis C if you come into contact with the blood of an infected person.
Other bodily fluids can also contain the virus, but blood contains the highest level of it. Just a small trace of blood can cause an infection. At room temperature, it’s thought the virus may be able survive outside the body in patches of dried blood on surfaces for up to several weeks.
The main ways you can become infected with the hepatitis C virus are described below.
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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. Its 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.
How To Treat Hepatitis A
The spread of Hepatitis A can be usually stopped by maintaining good hygiene, and having clean water.
Plenty of hospitals today in America have made it important to have a vaccination of Hepatitis A, but in case you dont have one, you can ask from the same to your healthcare provider.
You can call us on the number mentioned or book online with us for a Hepatitis A check or a panel check. We maintain a strong confidentiality agreement with our patients and have adopted minimalist paperwork.
In case you feel you have Hepatitis A, then you can connect with us, and then we can assist you with a proper consultation, checkup and prescriptions followed by other necessary steps. Please avoid any home remedies and usage of over the counter products for Hepatitis A.
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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.
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Symptoms Of Liver Disease C In Women
Numerous women do not have symptoms until the disease is in a later stage. Women who have signs of the disease in the earliest stage may reject symptoms or associate them to other aspects, such as anemia, depression, or menopause.
Early symptoms of liver disease C in women can include:
- muscle and joint pain
- bad hunger
Some liver disease C infections are intense and the infection clears or improves on its own without treatment within a few months . Intense infections are more typical in women.
Hepatitis C can also be chronic, meaning the infection does not clear by itself, but rather advances and damages the liver. Symptoms of chronic liver disease include:
- bruising or bleeding
- spider veins
The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C take place in both men and women, however the disease can advance slower in women. However, some women experience fast development of the disease and liver damage after menopause.
Having these symptoms does not suggest you have liver disease C.
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How Can You Avoid Hepatitis C
Right now there is no vaccination to protect you againsthepatitis C. However, you can take steps to protectyourself from becoming infected:
- Don’t use injectable drugs.
- If you use drugs, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B and enter a treatment program.
- Never share needles, syringes, water, or “works” for intravenous drug use, to inject steroids, or cosmetic substances.
- Handle needles and other sharp objects safely.
- Do not use personal items that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood.
- Do not get tattoos or body piercings from an unlicensed facility or in an informal setting.
- Wear gloves if you have to touch another person’s blood. Always clean hands after removing gloves.
- Have safer sex. Each time you have sex use a condom.
For more information, see Safer Sex.
When Should You See A Doctor Or Other Healthcare Professional
Since so many people dont experience any symptoms, healthcare professionals recommend getting screened for hepatitis C at least once in your adult life. They may recommend more frequent screenings if you have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Hepatitis C doesnt always become severe, but the chronic form can increase your risk for liver damage, liver cancer, and liver failure.
If you have any symptoms that suggest hepatitis C, especially if theres a chance youve been exposed, connect with a doctor or another healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss your options for testing and treatment.
With a prompt diagnosis, you can get treatment earlier, which may help prevent damage to your liver.
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Prevention Is The Best Medicine
Even though hepatitis C rarely spreads within a household, if you or a family member have the disease, it’s wise to take precautions to prevent its spread especially if anyone in your home is immune compromised, or has cuts or open sores that increase the risk of infection.
In general, use these common sense preventive tips:
- Unless you are in a long-term, monogamous relationship, practice safe sex.
- Clean up spilled or dried blood with a bleach-based cleaning solution and wear rubber gloves.
- Do not share razors.
- Do not share toothbrushes. “Though hepatitis C is not transmitted through saliva, there might be blood on the toothbrush,” Reau says.
Note that hepatitis C is not transmitted by sharing eating utensils, hugging, kissing, coughing or sneezing.
Who Is At Risk Of Hepatitis C
Anyone can get hepatitis C. It is important for peopleat high risk of infection to be tested and treated forhepatitis C. In the U.S., you are at a higher risk if you:
- Have ever used a needle to inject drugs, even if once and long ago
- Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- Are a health care worker who had blood exposure to mucous membranes or to non-intact skin, or a needlestick injury
- Have ever been on kidney dialysis
- Were born of a mother who had hepatitis C at the time
- Are a Vietnam-era Veteran
- Had contact with hepatitis-C-positive blood to nonintact skin or to mucous membranes
- Received tattoos or body piercings in non-regulated settings
- Have ever snorted drugs or shared drug equipment
- Have liver disease
- Have a history of alcohol abuse
- Have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- Have had a sexual partner with hepatitis C, now or in the past
- Have had 10 or more lifetime sexual partners
- Have HIV infection
The only way to know if you haveHepatitis C is to be tested. VA offershepatitis C testing and treatment toenrolled Veterans.
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How Does Hep C Spread
How do you get hepatitis C? Hepatitis C typically spreads through infected blood. One of the most common reasons for hep C transmission is sharing needles from illicit drug use. However, there are many other ways you might contract hepatitis C. For instance, getting tattoos or piercings using unsanitary needles, working in healthcare where you may be exposed to infected blood, or even sharing personal care items that may be contaminated with small amounts of blood, like razors or nail clippers.
Hepatitis C can also spread through sex, especially if there may be blood present, like if youre having sex during your period or if you experience tearing that causes light bleeding. This can create the blood-to-blood contact that can lead to a hepatitis C infection.
Less commonly, women can also spread hepatitis C to their babies during pregnancy and birth. Some estimate that the risk is about 6% per pregnancy for mothers with hep C. The good news is that it is typically treatable in babies when caught early.
Treatment For Hepatitis C
The goal of treatment is to clear the virus from the body. If you have acute hepatitis C, you probably wont have symptoms, and the virus will clear on its own without treatment. In the case of chronic hepatitis, your doctor may treat the virus with antiviral medication for 12 to 24 weeks.
Until 2011, there were only two drugs available to treat hepatitis C: pegylated interferon and ribavirin . These drugs were often used in combination with each other.
The drugs currently used to treat hepatitis C include:
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What To Do If The Hcv Antibody Test Is Reactive
If the antibody test is reactive or positive, you need an additional test to see if you currently have hepatitis C. This test is called a nucleic acid test for HCV RNA. Another name used for this test is a PCR test.
If the NAT for HCV RNA is:
- Negative you were infected with hepatitis C virus, but the virus is no longer in your body because you were cured or cleared the virus naturally.
- Positive you now have the virus in your blood.
If you have a reactive antibody test and a positive NAT for HCV RNA, you will need to talk to a doctor about treatment. Treatments are available that can cure most people with hepatitis C in 8 to 12 weeks.
Early Signs Of Liver Disease
Some people will develop symptoms within two weeks to six months after being infected by the hepatitis C virus. This is called an acute infection.
Exposure can take place through contact with infected blood or needles. This sometimes can happen on the job or recreationally.
In general, early signs of hepatitis C are flu-like, mild and fairly nonspecific, meaning that they can be caused by a laundry list of other illnesses and infections. They include , sore muscles, , , nausea, itchy skin, , and a yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes . For most people, acute hepatitis C infection will lead to chronic or long-term infection.
If you notice any of these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C, contact your doctor. A blood test can help determine if these symptoms are, in fact, a result of hepatitis C.
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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.
Hepatitis C And Liver Transplantation
Some people with advanced hepatitis C infection and severe liver damage undergo a liver transplant, but that doesnt eradicate the infection. Patients with active infection at the time of the transplant will develop hepatitis C in the new liver. Sometimes the infection recurs even when patients are on antiviral treatment. Those who have achieved sustained virologic response meaning no detectable virus in the blood 6 months after treatment have a very low risk of developing hepatitis C infection in the new liver.
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