Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C attacks the liver as inconspicuously as possible but with damaging results. It is considered as the most serious of all hepatitis kinds and can cause severe damage to the liver.

Symptoms

Usually, hepatitis C does not show any symptoms during the early stages; it will manifest itself later on. Persons infected with hepatitis c will exhibit the following symptoms:

– Fatigue
– Poor appetite
– Nausea and vomiting
– Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
– Tenderness in the liver area
– Fever

Causes

Blood contamination is the usual culprit behind hepatitis C infection. People who have received blood transfusions before 1992 are susceptible to the disease because there are no blood screening tests available during that period. You can also get hepatitis C if you used contaminated needles in injecting drugs and getting tattoos.

Risk Factors

Those who have high risks of getting hepatitis C are those who:

– Had blood transfusions before 1992
– Received organ transplants before 1992
– Are undergoing hemodialysis for kidney failure
– Were born to mothers with hepatitis C

Medical Tests and Diagnosis

Your doctor will conduct a blood test to determine if you have hepatitis C. If the test is positive, he will measure the amount of virus that you have in your blood and examine its genetic makeup. This is essential in order form him to prescribe the best type of treatment. Aside from blood tests, your doctor can also ask for a liver biopsy for microscopic analysis.

Complications

Unfortunately, most patients of hepatitis C virus develop a chronic condition. Some of them develop cirrhosis several decades after infection. Progression of the disease is much faster for people with HIV. A small percentage eventually develops liver cancer.

Hepatitis C can also lead to other conditions such as lymphatic system cancers (lymphomas) and porphyria cutanea tarda, which causes rash on the lower extremities and can cause kidney damage.

Treatment

Not all who are diagnosed with hepatitis C actually require treatment. It is necessary however if you have:

– Hepatitis C circulating in your bloodstream
– Increased levels of liver enzyme called alanine aminotranferase in your blood
– Significant liver damage indicated in your biopsy

People who have hepatitis C are usually given weekly injections of a drug called pegylated interferon alfa. This will be combined with an antiviral agent called rivabirin (Rebetol). This aims to eliminate the virus from your bloodstream and 40 to 80 percent of the patients are treated. The duration of the treatment will depend on the type of genotype a patient has and the severity of the disease.

These medications do have side effects such as depression, skin irritation, memory problems and insomnia. It can also cause anemia and birth defects so it is best to consult the doctor before taking any treatment.

For very severe cases, liver transplantation is sometimes the only solution. However, having a liver transplant will not cure the disease. Some of those who had transplants will experience a recurrence of the virus later on.

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