A look at Hepatitis C

There are several causes of hepatitis, the most common being viral hepatitis. There are five types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common.

Hepatitis C, also known as HCV, causes the liver to become inflamed. Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues in the body are injured or infected. Hepatitis C can cause an acute or chronic infection of the liver. Acute hepatitis C is a short term infection lasting for up to six months. Sometimes your body can fight off the virus. Studies have shown that approximately 25% of those infected with HCV will be able to rid themselves of the virus without treatment, though scientists do not know how or why. The 75% to 85% of those with acute hepatitis will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C.

Symptoms

Most people who have contracted HCV may not have symptoms for years. However, if you get symptoms it will most likely feel like the flu. After injury to the liver occurs, the signs will show up as jaundice (which is yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), pale colored bowel movements, or dark amber or tea colored urine, pain in abdomen, nausea and vomiting, fatigue or joint pain.

Prevention

Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, you can take steps to protect yourself from acquiring the virus.

  • Not sharing needles
  • Wearing gloves if you touch another person’s blood or open wounds
    If getting a tattoo, make sure tools and ink are sterile
    Not sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
    Practicing safe sex and using a condom

Treatment

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to hepatitis C, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.

If you have hepatitis C, talk with your doctor about treatment. There are antiviral medications available. The brand of drug is based on several factors. Your doctor can explain the medications and how long you will need treatment. You should also protect others by not donating blood, tissue or organs. Tell your dentist and other health care providers.

References