Hepatitis C is a viral infection that targets the liver, which causes inflammation in the liver and can lead to liver damage and diseases. In most cases, people with hepatitis C do not become aware of they have hepatitis C until they begin to show symptoms related to liver damage or disease. This means that treating hepatitis C can be a challenge.
Hepatitis C can be diagnosed with blood tests as well as liver function tests. Liver function tests work by measuring the amounts of albumin and bilirubin. In some cases, your doctor may also order a liver biopsy for further examination.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?
A lot of individuals with hepatitis C do not show any signs of the viral infection until there is some liver damage. However, one of the primary hepatitis C symptoms is a persistent pain, particularly in the abdomen below the rib cages.
Coupled with muscle pain and stomach pain, most people also experience fatigue, fever, nausea, itching, and dark urine. Along with nausea, hepatitis C can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, and headaches.
Jaundice is also a common symptom of hepatitis C. Jaundice refers to the discoloration of the whites of the eyes and parts of the skin, usually a yellowish color which is associated with liver failure.
What Causes Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted via contact with contaminated blood. Sharing needles is one of the primary causes of hepatitis C, which is why intravenous drug users are a higher risk of getting hepatitis C.
Getting tattoos and piercings with unsterile equipment that can potentially be contaminated with the virus can also cause hepatitis C. Sharing personal hygiene products like razors and toothbrushes can also put you at risk of getting hepatitis C. Although hepatitis C is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, cuts, sores, and menstrual blood can lead to the exposure of the virus during sexual contact with an infected individual.
Before 1992, blood donations were not screened for hepatitis C, so those who had had a blood transfusion prior to that date may also be infected with hepatitis C. Finally, pregnant women who have hepatitis C can pass the virus onto their child at childbirth.
How Is Hepatitis C Treated?
The primary hepatitis C treatment is antiviral drugs to eliminate it from the body and prevent further complications associated with the virus. Antiviral medications are typically taken for up three months once daily. In severe cases where the liver is dangerously damaged, a liver transplant is also an option to prolong the patient’s life and improve their quality of life. Although liver transplantation comes with risks and generally involves a long wait list, it can be necessary in some patients’ cases.
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