If You Notice Symptoms See A Doctor Right Away
Symptoms of hepatitis C include the following:
- Jaundice a yellowish tone to the eyes and skin
- Mild, chronic right belly pain
- Loss of appetite
If you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C or notice any symptoms, visit your primary care doctor as soon as possible. If you test positive for the virus, your doctor can refer you to a hepatologist to discuss your options.
“I strongly encourage all baby boomers and others who are at high risk to get tested, even if you don’t look or feel sick,” Reau says. “If you do have hepatitis C, the earlier we discover it, the more likely we can prevent it from progressing and causing more serious damage.”
What Are The Symptoms
Most people have no symptoms when they are first infected with the hepatitis C virus. If you do develop symptoms, they may include:
- Feeling very tired.
- Sore muscles.
- Dark urine.
- Yellowish eyes and skin . Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
Most people go on to develop chronic hepatitis C but still don’t have symptoms. This makes it common for people to have hepatitis C for 15 years or longer before it is diagnosed.
Tests For Liver Problems
To check how well your liver is working, you may have:
- Liver function tests. These are blood tests that can help your doctor find out if you have liver damage.
- A liver biopsy. The doctor puts a needle in the liver to find out whether the virus has caused scarring or damage to your liver.
- Imaging tests such as a CT scan, an MRI, or an ultrasound to make sure that you don’t have liver cancer.
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Finding The Right Approach
Drug interactions can be very complex, and there are always individual differences in how they work. Whats perfect in one dosage for one patient, may not be at all for another. Ultimately, finding the right pharmaceutical therapy may involve some aspects of trial and error. This being the case, patients absolutely must be open and honest with their healthcare providers about what theyre taking and how theyre feeling. Be mindful of what youre experiencing and stay vigilant as you move towards recovery.
What Does It Mean When Different Types Of Blood Tests For Hepatitis C Give Different Results
The first test your provider probably will perform is called an “antibody” test. A positive result means that you were exposed to the hepatitis C virus at some point in your life.
If the result is positive, your provider will perform a second test called hepatitis C virus RNA to see if the virus is still in your body. If the RNA test result is positive, then you have chronic hepatitis C infection.
So what does it mean if you have a positive result for the first test but a negative result for the second?
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How Can I Protect Myself From Hepatitis C Infection
If you dont have hepatitis C, you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by
- not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- wearing gloves if you have to touch another persons blood or open sores
- making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
Hepatitis C can spread from person to person during sex, but the chances are low. People who have multiple sex partners, have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or who engage in rough or anal sex have a higher chance of getting hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about your risk of getting hepatitis C through sex and about safe sex practices, such as using a latex or polyurethane condom to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you had hepatitis C in the past and your body fought off the infection or medicines cured the infection, you can get hepatitis C again. Follow the steps above, and talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from another hepatitis C infection.
If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
What Are The Types Of Hepatitis C Infection
There are two types of hepatitis C infection:
- Acute: a short-term infection that occurs within 6 months after a person is exposed to the virus. However, about 75 to 85 percent of people with the acute form go on to develop the chronic form.
- Chronic: a long-term illness that can continue throughout a persons life. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and other serious problems, such as liver failure or cancer. About 15,000 people a year die from liver disease associated with hepatitis C.
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Articles On Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a sneaky virus. You may not have any symptoms at all. Most people donât. This is one if the reasons, along with treatability now, that all adults are recommended to get tested. Your doctor could check your liver and see only a little damage. You’re usually not diagnosed until they spot a problem with your liver enzymes after a routine blood test.
Treatments For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be treated with medicines that stop the virus multiplying inside the body. These usually need to be taken for several weeks.
Until recently, most people would have taken 2 main medicines called pegylated interferon and ribavirin .
Tablet-only treatments are now available.
These new hepatitis C medicines have been found to make treatment more effective, are easier to tolerate, and have shorter treatment courses.
They include sofosbuvir and daclatasvir.
Using the latest medications, more than 90% of people with hepatitis C may be cured.
But it’s important to be aware that you will not be immune to the infection and should take steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected again.
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What It Can Do To You
Hepatitis C is very serious and contagious liver disease that can be mild and last a few weeks or become a serious and lifelong illness that attacks the liver. This can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
If you are pregnant and infected with hepatitis C virus, you may pass the virus to your baby. About 4 out of every 100 infants born to mothers with hepatitis C become infected with the virus. Breastfeeding is not considered a risk. However, if your nipples are cracked and bleeding, you should stop breastfeeding until they are healed.
If I Get Tested For Hepatitis C And The Result Is Positive Do I Need Any Other Tests To Be Sure
When your provider wants to test you for hepatitis C, the first test you will have is the hepatitis C antibody . If this test is positive, it means you were infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in the past. But this test alone is not enough. You will still need another test to confirm if you still have the hepatitis C virus in your system. About 1 out of 5 people who get infected with hepatitis C will be able get the rid of the virus on their own, without treatment, very early after their infection. So some people will have a positive antibody test, but a negative HCV RNA .
So, the second test that your provider should request is called hepatitis C virus RNA or HCV RNA test. There are several different tests available to check the HCV RNA. What matters is that if the RNA test is positive, then you do have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. If the RNA test is negative, then you may need to have this test again to be sure. If these RNA tests are all negative, then you no longer have hepatitis C infection and do not have chronic hepatitis C.
If your hepatitis C antibody test is positive, be sure that you get tested for hepatitis C RNA to find out whether the infection has become chronic or whether it has cleared. If the infection has become chronic, there are treatments your provider can prescribe to fight off the hepatitis C virus and keep your liver healthy.
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You May Not Be Able To Keep Drinking
For some people, its a good idea to avoid alcohol after youve been cured of chronic hepatitis C, mainly because adult beverages might tax your damaged liver and cause additional liver damage.
The decision would depend on how much scarring or damage you have in the liver, says Menon. Your doctor would tell you when drinking is not advisable.
Eat Regular Nutritious Meals
Sometimes people with hepatitis C have a hard time eating. You may have no appetite, feel nauseated, or have different tastes than you are used to. Even if you don’t feel like eating, it’s very important to eat small meals throughout the day. Some people have nausea in the afternoon. If this happens to you, try to eat a big, nutritious meal in the morning.
If you have cirrhosis, it may not be a good idea to eat salty foods or foods that are high in protein. If you want to know more about which foods to avoid and which foods are good to eat, ask your doctor about meeting with a registered dietitian to discuss a healthy eating plan.
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How Can I Prevent Spreading Hepatitis C To Others
If you have hepatitis C, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Tell your sex partner you have hepatitis C, and talk with your doctor about safe sex practices. In addition, you can protect others from infection by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you have hepatitis C. Dont donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
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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What Are The Symptoms And How Does Hepatitis C Progress
Many people with hepatitis C feel entirely well and have few or no symptoms. Any symptoms that may be present are often initially thought to be due to another illness. This may mean that hepatitis C may be diagnosed when you have had the virus for some time. Many people have hepatitis C without knowing it.
It is helpful to think of two phases of infection with HCV. An acute phase when you first become infected and a chronic phase in people where the virus remains long-term.
Acute Hepatitis C: What Are The Signs And Symptoms
For acute hepatitis C, the incubation period is two weeks to three months after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Most people who contract acute hepatitis C do not show any symptoms, the CDC notes. And because there are no symptoms, they never receive a diagnosis. But others with acute hepatitis C have the following symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or clay-colored feces
- Joint pain
For reasons that arent well understood, a small percentage of individuals exposed to HCV about 15 to 25 percent only develop an acute infection that clears out of the body spontaneously, says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Pittsburgh. The infection usually clears from the body within six months. The remaining 75 to 85 percent of those exposed to HCV develop chronic hepatitis C.
Among those who develop an acute infection with symptoms, symptoms typically last only 2 to 12 weeks.
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Theres Reason For Hope With Hepatitis C
Unfortunately, even when people are diagnosed with hepatitis C, many dont do anything about it. According to a report published in May 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine, only about a third of people with hepatitis C receive medical care for their condition.
Yet Singh says hes seeing more people with hepatitis C than ever before, as people are finding out that new treatment options often work well. New treatments for hepatitis C have been revolutionary, he says. Over 95 percent of patients can be cured with three months of treatment.
Newer antiviral drugs can clear the virus even in people who have had no luck on earlier medications. They also generally take less time to start working, cause fewer side effects, and can treat and even eliminate illnesses caused by hepatitis C.
The CDC recommends that all American adults over age 18 get screened at least once. Pregnant women should be tested during each pregnancy. People who inject drugs, share needles, or have received maintenance hemodialysis are also at risk. If you are in one of these higher risk groups, you should be tested routinely. Talk to your doctor.
If you do test positive and get treated, keep in mind that damage from liver cirrhosis usually cant be reversed, Singh says. Following treatment, youll be monitored closely for liver cancer and other health problems.
How Do I Tell Someone I Have Hepatitis C
Informing someone that you have hepatitis C can be hard. Most people know little about this disease. You can start with how you found out about your diagnosis. It helps to be prepared with educational materials on HCV, and to be aware of the ways that people can and cannot be infected. For example, it is very rare for HCV to be transmitted during sex. Be sure to tell anyone who may be directly affected, such as:
You may want to encourage others to be tested for HCV if they have similar risk factors.
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Are There Supplements That Are Bad For My Liver
Taking too many vitamin and mineral supplements may do more harm than good to a damaged liver.
Sharing Toothbrushes Scissors And Razors
There’s a potential risk that hepatitis C may be passed on through sharing items such as toothbrushes, razors and scissors, as they can become contaminated with infected blood.
Equipment used by hairdressers, such as scissors and clippers, can pose a risk if it has been contaminated with infected blood and not been sterilised or cleaned between customers. However, most salons operate to high standards, so this risk is low.
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What Does High/low Viral Load Mean
Viral load is the amount of virus present in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the amount of viral genetic material per milliliter of blood. The amount of virus does not predict how severe the liver disease is or will become. The level of the viral load does not tell us anything about the risk of liver damage or how sick someone is. In hepatitis C, it matters if virus is present or absent. Some treatment regimens can be shortened if the patient has a low viral load to start with, but most often, treatment regimens are the same for people with high hepatitis C viral loads or low viral loads.
The RNA test is essential for making the diagnosis of hepatitis C infection–having a positive RNA test is the definition of having infection. After the diagnosis is made, the RNA level does not need to be checked over and over unless it is checked during the time that the patient is undergoing treatment. During treatment, regular RNA tests are done to follow the dropping virus level until it reaches an undetectable state. But before treatment and after treatment, repeated RNA testing is not necessary.