What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and this is one of several viruses that can cause viral hepatitis. The infection spreads when blood contaminated with the virus enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person.
Globally, around 71 million have chronic hepatitis C infection and a large number of those will develop Liver Cirrhosis or Cancer, usually after a few decades. It is advised to get tested because early detection and treatment leads to better outcomes. There is currently no vaccine for HCV but treatment is successful in over 90% of all cases.
Hepatitis C infection is commonest among:
- Intravenous drugs users with the use of contaminated needles and/or people who got a tattoo with an unsterilized instrument.
- People who have multiple sexual partners or a partner with multiple sexual partners
- Infants born to HCV infected mothers.
- Healthcare workers with accidental needle pricks.
- People with HIV.
- People who received a transfusion with untested blood and blood products as well as people on hemodialysis treatments
What Are The Symptoms Seen In Hepatitis C Infection?
Most people who are infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms early in the course of the infection. However, the early symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Muscle pains.
- Dark urine.
- Yellow eyes.
- Pale stool.
A large chunk of hepatitis C infections progresses to the chronic phase. When there is a chronic hepatitis C infection, symptoms are usually not seen until very late in the disease. Infected individuals may experience symptoms similar to those seen in Hepatitis B infection:
- Weight loss.
- Easily fatigued.
- Breast enlargement in men.
- Redness of the palms of the hands.
- A difficulty with the clotting of blood.
- Spider-like blood vessels on the skin.
- Abdominal pain.
- Pale stools.
- Bleeding from the oesophagus.
- Fluid in the abdomen.
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).
- Dark urine.
- Bruising easily.
- Swelling in your legs.
How Is Hepatitis C Infection Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of hepatitis B can be made only with specific hepatitis C virus blood tests. The blood tests can also identify the stage of the infection, people who are at highest risk for complications and also the amount of hepatitis C virus in a person's blood.
How is Hepatitis C treated?
A cure for Hepatitis C is achievable in 90% of cases if promptly diagnosed and treated. If you have symptoms similar to those listed above, consult your doctor.
How Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented?
There are no vaccines for prevention against Hepatitis C infection. However, prevention is achieved by:
- Avoiding contaminated needles
- Safer sex (abstaining or limiting the number of partners, using barrier methods of contraception).
Article By: Dr Leke Odufuye