Contagious And Incubation Periods
The incubation periodthe time it takes for symptoms to appear after the hepatitis C virus has entered your bodyis from 2 weeks to 6 months. But not all people have symptoms when they are first infected.
You can spread the virus to someone else at any time after you are infected, even if you don’t have symptoms.
How Are Hepatitis B And C Treated
- Antiviral medications, interferon injections and a liver transplant are options for treatment of ongoing infections. Not everyone will need these treatments.
- Medicines known as direct-acting antiviral agents are now available that can lead to a cure in 8 to 12 weeks in many patients with hepatitis C, but hepatitis B may require long-term treatment.
- There is a vaccine that is used to prevent hepatitis B infection in both adults and newborns, but there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C.
The newer direct-acting antiviral agents medications to treat HCV include:
What Are The Treatments For Hepatitis C
Treatment for hepatitis C is with antiviral medicines. They can cure the disease in most cases.
If you have acute hepatitis C, your health care provider may wait to see if your infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
If your hepatitis C causes cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Treatments for health problems related to cirrhosis include medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If your hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
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Seek Help For Depression
You may feel angry or depressed about having to live with a long-term, serious disease. You may have a hard time knowing how to tell other people that you have the virus. It can be helpful to talk with a social worker or counsellor about what having the disease means to you. You also may want to find a support group for people with hepatitis C. If you don’t have a support group in your area, there are several on the Internet.
Depression may develop in anyone who has a long-term illness. It also can be a side effect of antiviral medicines for hepatitis C. If you are feeling depressed, talk to your doctor about antidepressant medicines and/or counselling. For more information, see the topic Depression.
Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms
If you donât get diagnosed and treated, you could have the disease for years and not know it. Doctors call this the chronic form, because it lasts a long time. Some people who’ve had it for a while get scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis. or liver cancer.
In addition to the above symptoms, signs that your liver isnât working the way it should include:
- Ascites — fluid buildup in your belly
- Easy bleeding
- Hepatic encephalopathy — confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Jaundice of the skin
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What Are The Early Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
A particular difficulty with HCV is that it often does not carry any clearly identifiable symptoms until the liver has become severely damaged. This means that many people are unaware they have been infected with the virus for many years, which is a particular risk for those that caught the virus from an infected blood transfusion which they supposed was safe. Where symptoms are felt, the cause of them is often difficult to diagnose and they may be mistaken for other less serious illnesses.
These symptoms can include:
How Common Is Hepatitis C
There are approximately 30,000 new cases of acute hepatitis C every year in the United States as estimated by the CDC. In 2015, it was estimated that approximately 3.5 million Americans were infected with hepatitis C.
On a global scale, the prevalence of hepatitis C is greatest in Central and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. In 2016, it was estimated that 177 million people worldwide had antibodies to hepatitis C virus.
- exposure to other people who do or might have hepatitis C.
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Cost Of Hepatitis C Medicines
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be costly. Most government and private health insurance prescription drug plans provide some coverage for these medicines. Talk with your doctor about your health insurance coverage for hepatitis C medicines.
Drug companies, nonprofit organizations, and some states offer programs that can help pay for hepatitis C medicines. If you need help paying for medicines, talk with your doctor. Learn more about financial help for hepatitis C medicines.
Southern Cross Medical Library
The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.
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What Other Tests Diagnose Hepatitis C
Once the diagnosis of hepatitis C is established, other tests may be done to determine whether the patient has developed liver fibrosis or scarring . This can be done with a needle biopsy of the liver, and examining the biopsied liver tissue under the microscope. Liver biopsy is less commonly done today because noninvasive tests are more readily available, more easily accomplished and less costly.
Liver imaging can evaluate fibrosis using ultrasound and MRI scans. Additionally, calculations using a variety of blood tests also can predict the degree of inflammation and fibrosis present. Genotype testing will typically be done to determine what subtype of hepatitis C the patient has, as this will impact what drugs are used for treatment. Testing for other infections including HIV, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B is typically done to determine if the patient might have other conditions that could impact patient’s treatment and prognosis.
With the newest forms of antiviral treatment, the most common types of chronic hepatitis C can be cured in most individuals.
Hepatitis C Testing And Diagnosis
Doctors will start by checking your blood for:
Anti-HCV antibodies: These are proteins your body makes when it finds the hep C virus in your blood. They usually show up about 12 weeks after infection.
It usually takes a few days to a week to get results, though a rapid test is available in some places.
The results can be:
- Nonreactive, or negative:
- That may mean you donât have hep C.
- If youâve been exposed in the last 6 months, youâll need to be retested.
If your antibody test is positive, youâll get this test:
HCV RNA: It measures the number of viral RNA particles in your blood. They usually show up 1-2 weeks after youâre infected.
- The results can be:
- Negative: You donât have hep C.
- Positive: You currently have hep C.
You might also get:
Liver function tests: They measure proteins and enzyme levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after youâre infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C. Learn the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
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Potential Complications Of Hepatitis C
Chronic hepatitis C infection is a long-lasting illness with potentially serious complications. About 75% to 85% of those with acute hepatitis C infection go on to develop chronic illness. Of those in the chronic illness group, more than two-thirds will develop liver disease. Up to 20% will develop cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, within 20 to 30 years. Cirrhosis affects liver function and causes elevated blood liver enzymes. Up to 5% of people with chronic hepatitis C infection will die from liver cancer or cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis C infection is the most common reason for liver transplantation in the U.S.
What Drugs Treat And Cure Hepatitis C
The treatment of chronic hepatitis C has gone through several generations of medications. Not long ago, treatment was limited to interferon alpha-2b or pegylated interferon alpha-2b , and ribavirin . Interferon and pegylated interferon need to be injected under the skin , while ribavirin is taken by mouth. This combination therapy is infrequently used today, being recommended for only the least common genotypes of hepatitis C virus .
Since 2010, direct-acting antiviral drugs have been in use. The second generation of antivirals for HCV was the protease inhibitors telaprevir and boceprevir , both taken by mouth. These were used in combination with the earlier drugs to increase effectiveness . These drugs are also no longer in common use, and have been replaced by better options.
As more has been learned about how hepatitis C virus multiplies within the liver cells, new drugs continue to be developed to interfere with this multiplication at different stages. As such, we no longer think in terms of generations of drugs, but rather categories of action. Research and development of these direct-acting antivirals continue, with new agents coming to market every few months. Each category is improved and expanded by the addition of new drugs, which are safer and more effective.
Currently available and commonly used direct-acting antiviral drugs include:
- Muscle aches
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Hepatitis C And Liver Transplantation
Some people with advanced hepatitis C infection and severe liver damage undergo a liver transplant, but that doesn’t 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.
How Common Is Hepatitis C In The United States
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood.14
Researchers estimate that about 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.13 Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have this infection.
New screening efforts and more effective hepatitis C treatments are helping doctors identify and cure more people with the disease. With more screening and treatment, hepatitis C may become less common in the future. Researchers estimate that hepatitis C could be a rare disease in the United States by 2036.17
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Tests For The Hepatitis C Virus
If your doctor thinks that you may have hepatitis C, he or she may order:
- A hepatitis C virus test. This is a blood test that looks for antibodies against the hepatitis C virus. It shows whether you have been exposed to the virus.
- A blood test that looks for the genetic material of the hepatitis C virus. This test shows whether you are infected with the virus now.
- A blood test to find out the kind of hepatitis C virus you have. Knowing your genotype will help you and your doctor decide if and how you should be treated.
How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis C
Doctors treat hepatitis C with antiviral medicines that attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases.
Several newer medicines, called direct-acting antiviral medicines, have been approved to treat hepatitis C since 2013. Studies show that these medicines can cure chronic hepatitis C in most people with this disease. These medicines can also cure acute hepatitis C. In some cases, doctors recommend waiting to see if an acute infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these newer, direct-acting antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C:
You may need to take medicines for 8 to 24 weeks to cure hepatitis C. Your doctor will prescribe medicines and recommend a length of treatment based on
- which hepatitis C genotype you have
- how much liver damage you have
- whether you have been treated for hepatitis C in the past
Your doctor may order blood tests during and after your treatment. Blood tests can show whether the treatment is working. Hepatitis C medicines cure the infection in most people who complete treatment.
Hepatitis C medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
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Tests To Diagnose Hepatitis C
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
There are two main blood tests typically used to diagnose Hepatitis C. First, youll have a screening test that shows if youve ever had Hepatitis C at some point in your life. If this test is positive, youll have a second test to see if you have Hepatitis C now. These blood tests are described below:
Hepatitis C antibody test
This is the screening test used by doctors to show whether or not you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis C at some time in your life, by detecting antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are substances your body makes to fight off all kinds of infections. If you were ever infected with Hepatitis C, your body would have made antibodies to fight the virus.
If the test result is:
- Negative, it means you have not been exposed to Hepatitis C and further testing is usually not needed.
- Positive, you have had Hepatitis C at some point. However, it does not tell you whether you have it now. Youll need to see your doctor for another test the Hepatitis C RNA test to determine if the virus is still active and present in your blood.
Hepatitis C RNA Qualitative Test
This test will determine whether or not you are currently infected with Hepatitis C. It is often called the PCR test because of the process used . It looks for the genetic material of the Hepatitis C virus in your blood.
If the test result is:
Hepatitis C RNA Quantitative Test
Understanding The Early Signs Of Hepatitis
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. It commonly occurs due to viral infection. Understanding the disease and identifying its early signs is vital as unmanaged hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. According to WHO, viral hepatitis causes 1.34 million deaths worldwide.
Hepatitis is divided into five categories, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus causes infection in each of these types. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of viral hepatitis, while the remaining two occur rarely.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 2.4 million Americans have hepatitis C, whereas approximately 850,000 people have hepatitis B. According to the CDC, most cases of hepatitis go unreported. In 2018 alone, around 24,900 Americans were reported to have hepatitis A, 21,600 cases of hepatitis B, and 50,300 cases of hepatitis C.
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Does The Treatment Carry Side Effects
Compared to earlier forms of treatment, the current DAA treatments are very effective and most people find them easy to take. Unfortunately, they still carry the risk of side effects and some patients find these particularly unpleasant. For those that suffer side effects they can include:
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Most people who contract hepatitis C do not have any symptoms, especially in the early stages. However, some people do develop early symptoms, which may include:
- Painful joints
But 3 out of 4 cases result in a chronic infection. In these people, symptoms may develop years, even decades later, when liver damage occurs. Others develop symptoms from 2 weeks to 6 months after infection. The average time to develop symptoms is 6 to 7 weeks after acquiring the virus. Those newly infected with hepatitis C may experience mild-to-severe fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, dark urine, clay-colored stool, and yellowing of the skin . A person who has hepatitis C infection but isn’t exhibiting any symptoms can still pass the virus on to others.
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Late Signs Of Liver Disease
If you dont notice or experience any early signs, it can take as long as 15 years for symptoms of hepatitis C-liver disease to emerge. The damage to your liver starts off as a slow, simmering inflammation that, over time, can progress to scarring , , liver cancer, and the need for a . Hepatitis C is the leading cause of cirrhosis and and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States.
Symptoms of end-stage are far less innocuous than the early signs of an acute infection. They may include easy bleeding or , persistent or recurring , intense itching, , and . Swelling in your abdomen and legs due to fluid buildup, liver , and problems with concentration and memory may also occur.
If you develop cirrhosis, your liver can fail. Other signs of are bleeding of the digestive tract caused by enlarged veins in the esophagus connecting the throat and stomach. Another consequence of cirrhosis is brain and nervous system damage due to the buildup of toxins in your blood, which occurs when the failing liver can no longer clean and detoxify your blood.
If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your doctor. If your blood test is positive for hepatitis C infection, he or she may need to perform liver biopsies to evaluate how much the hepatitis C virus has affected your liver. The degree to which your liver is affected by hepatitis C is an important driver in treatment decisions.