The hepatitis C virus causes the liver to inflammate, and if it is not treated it can lead to liver cancer. It is transmitted by blood to blood contact with an infected person – if you share the same needle in an injection, have sex with a virus carrier, or if you were born from a mother that has the virus. You can’t get the hepatitis C virus if you touch, hug or kiss someone that has it.
There are two main types of hepatitis C – acute and chronic.
The acute hepatitis C virus becomes active 6 months after the infection with it. It can be detected if a blood analysis is performed but surprisingly it has almost no signs and symptoms. Only a few patients with hepatitis C experience abdominal pain, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Aproximately a quarter of the acute hepatitis C patients naturally eliminate the virus from their bodies, but the remaining three quarters develop chronic hepatitis C. A few years ago doctors did nothing against acute hepatitis C and waited to see if the virus is eliminated, but recent research has shown that if it is treated the chances that the virus disappears increases.
Chronic hepatitis C appears if the virus is not eliminated in the first 6 months. It has almost no detectable symptoms and in most cases it is discovered accidentally during tests on the patient. But when the liver gets seriously damaged some symptoms do occur. The most common ones are fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, low appetite, muscle and joint pain.
The next phase of hepatitis C is called cirrhosis, and its symptoms are related to the fact that the liver is not functioning properly anymore. Patients with cirrhosis are bruised and bleed easily, experience jaundice, bone pain, and other symptoms that vary from one patient to another.
It is very hard to cure hepatitis C. If it is discovered while it’s in the acute phase then the chances increase, but in its chronic phase only few are cured.
The most common hepatitis C treatment is a number of injections with a drug called pegylated interferon alfa, which is combined with ribavirin pills. These two substances help the body clear the virus, but they are not always effective and they have several side effects among which you can find anemia and fatigue.
If the disease has advanced too much and its damage to the liver is irreversible then a liver transplant must be done. The bad thing about this is that it is pretty hard to find a liver that fits because a large number of people need this transplant and there are too few donors.
Since so little can be done against this terrible disease you should always beware getting infected with it. Under no circumstances share the same needle with anyone and stay away from sexual encounters with strangers. We can only hope that the future will come with a cure for hepatitis C.
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By: Groshan Fabiola