How Do You Know If You Have Hepatitis C
The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is bya medical exam. There are several blood tests yourhealth care provider can use to diagnose hepatitis C.These tests can tell you:
- If it is acute or chronic infection
- If you have recovered from infection
- If you could benefit from vaccination for hepatitis A and B
In some cases, your health care provider may suggesta liver biopsy. A liver biopsy is a test for liver damage. Aneedle is used to remove a tiny piece of liver, which isthen sent for tests.
Treatments For Chronic Hepatitis C
If the infection has lasted more than six months, doctors may start treatment with two drugs: peginterferon and ribavirin. Doctors do not treat children with hepatitis C until they reach age 3 because of concerns of possible toxicity and the low chance that a child younger than 3 will have significant liver damage from HCV.
Some children with other medical conditions, such as those with thalassemia, other viral infections, or serious kidney disease, may need to be treated differently. You should tell your doctor if your child has any other medical conditions before starting treatment for hepatitis C.
Biggest Risks Of Not Treating Hepatitis C
You feel 100% fine, yet your doctor just told you that you have hepatitis C.
Confused? You are not alone. About 3.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus infection, and most of them dont have a clue. Like you, they feel and look absolutely fine.
With this as the backdrop, you may be questioning whether to even treat your hepatitis C, but the risks of not treating chronic hepatitis C far outweigh any of these concerns.
There are six big risks you take by not treating your hepatitis C today:
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What Can I Do To Stay As Healthy As Possible
To promote good health while living with HCV infection, learn about the disease and consider the following:
- Get more information about hepatitis C from your health care provider, local health unit, or support groups. See Hepatitis Education Canada at , Canadian Liver Foundation at www.liver.ca/ and Help4Hep at www.help4hep.org/
- Avoid alcohol as it can cause damage to the liver and increases the liver damage caused by HCV. If you do use alcohol, try to reduce the amount that you use. To learn more about support options, visit CATIE www.catie.ca/en/practical-guides/hepc-in-depth/treatment/hepatitis-c-treatment-and-drug-use
- Avoid illegal drug use and smoking. To find a needle exchange site, take home naloxone kits and training, or an overdose prevention site, see the toward the heart site and HealthLinkBC File #102a Understanding Harm Reduction: Substance Use
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Life Expectancy And Prognosis
Can you die from hepatitis? Technically, the complications of chronic hepatitis C are fatal. About 30,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cirrhosis.
How long can you live with untreated hep C? The disease affects everyone differently, so thereâs no rule. But about 70% to 80% of people with will get chronic help C. Within 20 years, about 20% to 30% of those people will get cirrhosis. From there, it depends on what type of cirrhosis you have, your treatment, and if you can get a liver transplant.
Can hepatitis C go away on its own? Yes. From 15% to 20% of people with hep C clear it from their bodies without treatment. Itâs more likely to happen in women and people who have symptoms. But it usually happens between 4 and 18 months after symptoms start.
What Is Alcoholic Hepatitis
Alcoholic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. It is one of the three main categories of alcoholic liver disease. It is preceded by fatty liver, a less serious and reversible condition that often does not produce any symptoms. If left untreated, alcoholic hepatitis can progress to alcoholic cirrhosis, a life-threatening condition characterized by scarring and decreased function of the liver.
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Taking Control Of Your Health With Hepatitis C Screening And Treatment
Hepatitis C may be known as a silent virus, but there are things you can to do protect your health, whether youve been diagnosed with HCV or youre in a high-risk group for HCV infection. If youre unsure of your status, your first step is getting screened.
The primary care physicians at Crystal Run Healthcare provide world-class care in state-of-the-art facilities. They act as your first point of contact and will work with you to schedule appropriate screenings and coordinate your care with our renowned team of specialists.
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How Is It Treated
If you have chronic hepatitis C infection, your healthcare provider will examine you for liver problems andmay prescribe drugs to help control the disease.Hepatitis C drugs can help to:
- Clear the virus from the body
- Slow down or prevent liver damage
- Lower the chance of getting cirrhosis and liver cancer
Before starting treatment it is important to discuss youroptions with your health care provider. Treatment forhepatitis C may not be for everyone. Some patientsmight not need treatment. Other patients might not beable to be treated due to other medical problems.
What Happens To Your Health When You Arent Treated For Hepatitis C
Although medication can cure hepatitis C, millions of people arent taking it. The problem: Left untreated, the virus can lead to serious health complications.
Theres a reason the hepatitis C virus is called the silent killer. All too often, people dont realize theyve been infected. Out of the estimated 2.4 million people in the United States who have hepatitis C, more than half dont know they have it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Usually when someone gets infected with hepatitis C, they initially until the disease gets fairly advanced, says Hardeep Singh, MD, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. The median time it takes for symptoms…to develop is 30 years.”
While some people are able to clear the virus on their own, most arent, and more than 50 percent go on to develop long-term, or chronic, hepatitis C, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Over time, untreated hepatitis C can cause hardening and scarring of the liver, which can cause complications that eventually lead to liver failure.
Liver cirrhosis and liver failure usually cannot be reversed sometimes a liver transplant is the only treatment option once advanced liver damage occurs. With hepatitis C, your risk of liver cancer also rises.
Here are a few other conditions that can be caused by untreated hepatitis C.
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Treating Hepatitis C Matters
When you see your doctor and start treatment for a chronic hep C infection, you can prevent these problems, improve them, or keep them from getting worse. New drugs can clear the virus from your body in a few months with fewer side effects than older medicines. If thereâs no virus in your blood 3 months after treatment, youâre considered cured.
Getting rid of the infection protects others, too. Hepatitis C spreads through blood-to-blood contact. You could infect a loved one if you accidentally use their toothbrush or cut yourself and donât clean up the blood properly. People who get hep C treatment greatly lower the odds that they will pass the virus to someone else.
If you arenât sure if you have hepatitis C, talk to your doctor to see if you should get tested. Learn why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
How Are Hepatitis C And Hiv Connected
People living with HIV are at higher risk for hepatitis C. Of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S., about 1 in 4 also have hepatitis C.
Having both HIV and hepatitis C means increased risk for liver disease, liver failure and liver-related death from hepatitis C. Because hepatitis is often serious in people living with HIV and may lead to liver damage more quickly, the CDC recommends people living with, or at risk for HIV, also get tested for hepatitis C.
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What Happens When Hepatitis C Is Left Untreated
What is Hepatitis C?
It is a blood borne virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It is also called as a silent virus as people live with it without symptoms for many years. However, there are serious long-term effects of untreated hepatitis C that you should be aware of.
What are the long-term effects of Hepatitis C?
Cirrhosis: Hepatitis C affects liver the most and cirrhosis is a liver disease that results when scar tissue begins taking over healthy tissue inside the liver itself. This slows blood flow and stops the liver from being able to process nutrients and toxins.
Cirrhosis can cause conditions such as:
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen
- Poisoning of the brain through the inability to process ammonia in the liver
- An increase of blood pressure in the venous system of the body
Liver cancer: Out of 100 people diagnosed with hepatitis C, one to five will die from liver cancer. After a certain period, many people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer. The symptoms are:
- Pain or lumps on the right side of the abdomen
- Pain in the back or right shoulder
- Feeling full after barely eating
- Tea-colored urine
- Enlargement of the breasts or testicles
In the past, hepatitis treatments were lengthy and painful injection, but now the treatment is improving rapidly. Today it is easier to take the drug, and they are very effective also.
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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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.
You May Make Your Illness Worse
If you dont treat your hepatitis C, theres a good chance you are not taking other important doctor-recommended steps to keep your liver healthy. This should include monitoring your alcohol intake as well as being careful not to take too much acetaminophen, which is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medications. Each week, more than 50 million Americans use a medicine that contains acetaminophen. For people with hepatitis C, too much acetaminophen and/or alcohol can further damage an already stressed liver.
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You Will Miss Out On A Cure
Over the past decade much has changed regarding C treatment and prognosis. Many people are afraid of side effects associated with hepatitis C medications, but todays anti-virals cause far fewer problems than older drugs. Whats more, your doctor can provide easy-to-follow tips on how to manage any that come up during the course of your treatment. Importantly, hepatitis C treatment is not forever and a cure is possible. What are you waiting for?
Your Liver Will Only Get Worse
Yes, you feel fine, but your blood work and liver biopsy could suggest that all is not well. If your doctor is recommending anti-viral treatment, it could mean that there is already evidence of liver damage. Treatment can prevent this damage from spiraling out of control. Todays antiviral treatments can cure hepatitis C, if started early enough in the process.
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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.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C Virus Infection
Most people who have HCV infection will feel well and have no symptoms. They may not know that they have been exposed to the virus. Some people may have a brief illness with symptoms appearing around 6 weeks after they have been infected with the virus. You need a blood test to see if you have the infection.
Symptoms of acute HCV infection may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
About 75% of people with HCV infection will develop a chronic infection. People with chronic HCV infection may feel tired or have a low mood or stomach pain. They may pass the virus on to other people.
Without treatment, some people with chronic HCV infection will develop scarring of the liver over decades. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure or liver cancer in a small number of people.
For more information on assessing your risk, see HealthLinkBC File #40a Hepatitis C Virus Infection.
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Get Tested And Treated For Stis
If you are sexually active, getting tested for STIs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and your partners health. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STI testing with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for STIs.
Depending on your symptoms and sexual activities, the provider may perform a three-site test of your throat, genitals, and rectum. Dont be embarrassed to get tested for an STI. Your health care provider is used to discussing sexual health. Besides, CDC estimates that there are more than 20 million new STI infections every year. So you are not alone and arent the only person talking to your health care provider about an STI.
Encourage your partner to get tested too. You or your partner might have an STI without having symptoms. You and your partner should determine what sexual behaviors and prevention practices are going to be used in your relationshipand outside of it if you are not exclusive. The goal of this communication is to keep you BOTH healthy and free from new infections. Here are some great tips on talking with your partner.
If you test positive, know that getting an STI is not the end! Many STIs are curable and all are treatable. If either you or your partner is infected with an STI that can be cured, both of you need to start treatment immediately to avoid getting re-infected.
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Complications Of Hepatitis C
If the infection is left untreated for many years, some people with hepatitis C will develop scarring of the liver .
Over time, this can cause the liver to stop working properly.
In severe cases, life-threatening problems, such as liver failure, where the liver loses most or all of its functions, or liver cancer, can eventually develop.
Treating hepatitis C as early as possible can help reduce the risk of these problems happening.