How To Get Tested
Hepatitis C testing is performed by a doctor. Testing requires a blood sample, which can be collected in a hospital, lab, or other medical setting. Blood is often drawn from a vein in the arm or, in children, taken by pricking the skin. After blood is collected, the sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis.
What Do I Do If I Find Out I Have Viral Hepatitis
After learning from your doctor that you have hepatitis, your first step will be to learn more about the virus. Read government resources, like the websites listed below, to find current, scientific information. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is important to prevent the virus from becoming serious. Dont drink or misuse drugs because they are hard on your liver. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Work to protect others by not donating blood or participating in risky behaviors, including sharing needles when using drugs or having unprotected sex.
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented Or Avoided
The only way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid coming in contact with an infected persons blood. Always have protected sex . Dont do intravenous drugs. Dont share personal care items with a person who has hepatitis C. If youre a health care worker, follow your workplaces standard safety practices.
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How Can You Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease. The main source of infection is from blood from an infected person.
- Most cases are caused by using contaminated needles or injecting equipment to inject drugs . Even a tiny amount of an infected person’s blood left on a needle is enough to cause spread to others.
- Some people who received blood transfusions or blood prior to 1991 were infected with hepatitis C from some donor blood. Since 1991 all blood and blood products donated in the UK are screened for HCV.
- There is also a risk of contracting hepatitis C from needlestick accidents, or other injuries involving blood spillage from infected people.
- There is a small risk of contracting the virus from sharing toothbrushes, razors and other such items which may be contaminated with infected blood.
- There is even a small risk from inhaling drugs like cocaine, as these can make the inside of your nose bleed. If that happens, tiny spots of blood can fall on to the note you are using and, if that is used by someone else, your blood can travel up their nose and into their bloodstream.
- There is also a small risk from re-used equipment used for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture, etc.
- There is a small risk that an infected mother can pass on the infection to her baby.
- There is a small risk that an infected person can pass on the virus whilst having sex.
The virus is not passed on during normal social contact, such as holding hands, hugging, or sharing cups or crockery.
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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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.
If You Have Hepatitis C Should You Get A Flu Shot
Yes. Having chronic hepatitis C is actually a good reason to get the flu shot. Chronic hepatitis C is a condition that can increase your risk of complications if you do get influenza. That’s why it is recommended for people with hepatitis C, and most chronic liver diseases, to be vaccinated against the flu.
To stay up to date with your influenza vaccinations, you need to be vaccinated every year–ideally, early in the flu season or as soon as the vaccine becomes available. Typically, flu season is considered to be October to March. It’s best to get vaccinated annually because the vaccine is designed differently each year to target the strains of influenza that are expected to circulate during that particular flu season.
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Helpful Tips While Taking Hepatitis C Medications
- Always follow your health care providers’ advice, particularly the instructions on taking your medicine.
- If you have to cancel an appointment, call your provider and schedule a new one as soon as possible.
- Take good care of yourself. Eat well, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day, and try to get a full night’s sleep.
- Learn about the hepatitis C medications you are taking. This includes special risks and warnings.
- If taking ribavirin, use sunscreen, wear long sleeves and a hat, and limit sun exposure.
- Write down your doctor’s name and phone number. Carry this information with you at all times.
- Write the names and amounts of the medicines you are taking. Carry this information with you at all times.
Could I Give Hepatitis C To Someone Else
Yes, once you have hepatitis C, you can always give it to someone else. If you have hepatitis C, you cannot donate blood. You should avoid sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes. It is very rare to pass hepatitis C in these ways, but it can happen. Always use a condom when you have sex. If you have hepatitis C, your sexual partners should be tested to see if they also have it.
Talk to your doctor first if you want to have children. The virus isnt spread easily from a mother to her unborn baby. But it is possible, so you need to take precautions. However, if youre trying to have a baby, do not have sex during your menstrual cycle. The hepatitis C virus spreads more easily in menstrual blood.
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What Else Can I Do To Take Care Of My Health
You can take care of your health by being kind to yourself.
Try some of the activities in the list to help protect your liver and keep yourself as healthy as you can.
Some of these activities can be hard to do so be patient with yourself. Do what you can.
Small changes can make a difference!
- Drink 4 to 8 glasses of water every day.
- Eat as well as you can. Try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Eat fewer processed foods, such as prepared foods that come in a box. Eat less sugar and salt.
- Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Try to do some exercise every day, such as gentle stretching, walking or swimming.
- Try activities that relax you, such as meditation or deep breathing.
- Spend time with your friends and family.
- Try to drink less alcohol or no alcohol. Alcohol can damage your liver.
- Try to smoke less or quit smoking. You may want to ask your doctor or nurse for advice about quitting smoking.
- If you use street drugs, use new equipment every time so you do not get other infections.
Dont Breathe In Toxic Fumes From Paint Cleaners Or Other Harsh Chemicals
When youre treating hepatitis C, its important to stay away from toxins that could harm your liver, Lee says. Exposure to fumes can damage your liver cells, leading to an accumulation of fats in the liver, liver cell death, cirrhosis, and liver cancer, he says.
Theres a long list of potentially noxious chemicals and volatile organic compounds , and some are common around the home and workplace, such as vinyl chloride , carbon tetrachloride , methylene chloride , and glycol ethers , Lee says. VOCs can also be found in spot removers, fabric or leather cleaners, PVC cement and primer, glue removers, aerosol spray products for some paints, leather treatments, pesticides, and air conditioner refrigerant.
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Dont Take Other Medications Unless Youve Talked To Your Doctor First
Many drugs can interfere with your hepatitis C medications, so its important to tell your doctor exactly what youre taking or thinking about adding to your regimen, says James J. Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist and medical director at the James J. Lee, MD Center of Excellence for Digestive Health in Orange, California. This includes medicines used for acid reflux, an enlarged prostate, birth control, high cholesterol, and seizures.
Whats more, some drugs can be hard on your liver, including over-the-counter pills such as acetaminophen. If you need treatment for more than one health condition, work closely with your doctors, including your primary care physician and your gastroenterologist or hepatologist, to determine the best methods.
Testing For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is usually diagnosed using 2 blood tests: the antibody test and the PCR test. These can be as part of a routine blood test or are often combined as a dried blood spot test. The dried blood spot test is similar to a blood sugar test in pricking the finger to get a blood spot that is put on a testing card. This is then sent to a laboratory to be tested.
Another similar test is an antigen test, which if used can often get the results back in 90 minutes. This is very expensive and not many services have access to the machine needed.
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Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C often doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. This means many people have the infection without realising it.
When symptoms do occur, they can be mistaken for another condition. Symptoms can include:
- flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and a high temperature
- feeling tired all the time
- loss of appetite
Read more about the complications of hepatitis C.
Safety Precautions At Home Work And During Sex
At home, work, and school, there are also precautions people can take to reduce the risk of spreading HCV. These include:
- not sharing personal items with others, including toothbrushes, toothpicks, floss, razors, or nail clippers, even if they look clean
- not sharing pierced jewelry items with others, or anything else that enters the skin
- completely covering open wounds until they heal
- avoiding activities that could expose someone to blood while there is an open wound, such as sores in the mouth or cracked lips, which would make kissing risky
- cleaning up blood spills immediately by wearing gloves and disinfecting using a bleach solution
- safely disposing of items used to clean up blood, to dress wounds, or during menstruation in sealed bags
- washing the skin and hair of children who have become exposed to blood containing HCV
Safe sex practices for people with HCV include:
- using barrier methods, such as condoms and dental dams, during sex
- avoiding rough sex and behaviors that could expose someone to blood
- avoiding sex during menstruation
If people have been in a long-term monogamous relationship, they may not need to change their sexual practices. However, people who are HCV-negative should attend routine screenings if they have sex with someone who is HCV-positive.
If a person uses needles regularly, they should:
Always get tattoos, piercings, and injections such as hormone, steroid, Botox, or dermal fillers from a licensed professional.
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Sometimes The Infection Goes Away On Its Own
Acute hepatitis is C is a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after being exposed to the virus. Like the human papillomavirus , early acute hepatitis C can clear on its own without treatment this happens about 25% of the time.
However, it’s more likely that the virus will remain in your body longer than six months, at which point it’s considered to be chronic hepatitis C infection.
“Being younger or a woman tends to be a factor in whether the virus clears on its own, and genetics may play a role,” Reau says. “But we can’t determine with certainty which people are certain to clear the infection and which aren’t.”
What Happens To People With Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C, or HCV, replicates in the liver. During this process, parts of the virus trigger your immune system into action. In the process of trying to rid your body of the HCV infection, the immune system actually kills infected liver cells. Over a slow process of many years, the interaction between the immune system and your liver can result in scarring of the liver and loss of liver function.
Most people who are infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection with the virus. But for some people, their body gets rid of the virus on its own very early after they are first infected. More than half of people with hepatitis C will never have any health problems from it. The disease generally progresses slowly, over the course of 10 to 40 years.
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Can I Get Reinfected With Hepatitis C
If you become infected with hepatitis C infection and then clear the virus , yes, it is possible for you to become infected again.
The chance of another infection with hepatitis C is much, much less than the chance of a first-time infection, but it is not impossible. It has happened in people who continue to use injection drugs, and some studies suggest that it happens even more often in people who are also HIV positive.
In other words, having had hepatitis C once does not make you “immune” to getting hepatitis C again.
The best way to avoid reinfection is to reduce risky behaviors that can result in exposure to the hepatitis C virus: Do not use injection drugs, do not share needles for any reason, avoid blood-to-blood exposures with others, and use condoms if you are sexually active with a new partner or with a partner who has used injection drugs.
The research in this area is ongoing, and we will continue to learn more about this very important topic. But for now, preventing re-exposure to the hepatitis C virus is the only sure way of avoiding infection and reinfection with hepatitis C.
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 .
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How Likely Am I To Become Infected With Hepatitis C From A Family Member Living In The Same House
Household transmission of hepatitis C is extremely rare. Fewer than 1 in 1,000 family members or close acquaintances becomes infected each year through common, nonsexual contact with hepatitis C-infected persons.
There are many possible ways by which hepatitis C could be passed from one person to another. Because the virus is carried in the blood, it could be transmitted between household members if a mucous membrane were to come in contact with blood or body fluids containing hepatitis C. Family members sometimes share razors, toothbrushes, or toothpicks, perhaps unknowingly. If an item were contaminated with hepatitis C-infected blood from one person, the virus could be passed to a second person if it were to tear the lining of the mouth or break through the skin.
Although these sorts of possibilities are often discussed as potential ways for hepatitis C to infect family members, such events occur very rarely.
If you aren’t sure of your hepatitis C status, get tested. If you test negative and have lived in a household with an infected family member or close acquaintance, you shouldn’t worry that any more contact will put you at risk.