Hepatitis C is a liver condition caused by the hep C virus. Without treatment, the viral infection can lead to liver damage and even cancer. So what causes hepatitis C?
Affecting nearly 4 million people in the United States alone, most individuals with the virus do not become aware of their condition until they start experiencing symptoms related to liver damage. Most people are unaware that they have hepatitis C until it has already caused some damage to their liver as it can take years for an individual to exhibit hepatitis C signs.
Hepatitis C Signs
Hepatitis C is typically asymptomatic following exposure to the virus. However, the virus can begin to take its toll on the liver before people start showing any symptoms.
When people with hep C begin to exhibit symptoms, they are typically joint and muscle pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, and dark urine. Hepatitis C can also cause itchy skin and jaundice, which causes yellowish discoloration on the skin and in the eyes. Jaundice often occurs when the primary symptoms begin to subside.
What Causes Hepatitis C?
The most common way hepatitis C is transmitted is via blood, and typically due to sharing infected needles. The United States only began testing blood donations for the hep C virus after 1992, so those who had a blood transfusion before 1992 should get screened if they are already not aware of their status. Just as with sharing needles, getting tattoos and piercings with unhygienic and potentially infected equipment is another common way hep C is transmitted.
Though the incidence rate is low and hepatitis C is not a sexually transmitted disease, sexual contact can also be a concern if the person is infected with the virus. Pregnant women who have hepatitis C can also pass the virus onto their child. However, you cannot get hepatitis C by kissing, sharing utensils, physical contact, and sneezing. Hep C requires one to be exposed to the blood of an infected individual.
Treating Hepatitis C
Though it may not be the appropriate course of treatment for everyone, antiviral medications are typically used to treat the virus. Every case is separate and pertains individual risks, so your doctor ultimately makes the decision as to whether antivirals are the best option depending on the severity of your case and liver damage incurred. There are both standard and newer treatment options to both improve symptoms and prevent the virus from leading to further complications.
Adopting healthier lifestyle choices to keep your immune system and lungs healthy such as regular exercise and a healthy diet is also essential. With today’s advancements, without having a cure, hep C can be considered cured when the virus can no longer be detected in the blood.
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