Hepatitis C is a viral liver disease which is also contagious. The disease spreads via blood contact and it is necessary to avoid any exposure to the hepatitis C virus. The infection can go on to be chronic and can be treated with medications. HCV can also cause liver cancer and in some worse conditions, it can also lead to death. The virus usually invades the liver which causes dysfunction and swelling. It is possible for a person to get re-infected with the virus that has a different strain.
Symptoms of HCV
Acute Hepatitis C
Due to the lack of definitive symptoms, acute hepatitis C is very rarely diagnosed. People even refer to it as a silent epidemic. From exposure to symptoms, it takes up to 4 to 15 weeks. Symptoms of the same could be nausea, joint pain, abdominal discomfort, and jaundice.
Chronic Hepatitis C
When the virus remains in the blood for more than six months, hepatitis becomes chronic. During diagnosis, if the HCV virus is detected for more than two times then the chronic HCV is confirmed. The infection will continue unless it is treated with proper medication. It should be noted that after 25 to 30 years the infection might result in scarring or even fibrosis of the liver. If the situation worsens then it can cause liver cancer and even liver failure. The damage of the disease is not apparent until the liver is almost on the verge of collapse. Proper treatments for Hep C are the only way to go in this case.
Causes of HCV
Hepatitis C is caused by the HCV virus. Viruses are usually inactive unless they enter a living body. These viruses then attack the cell and start replicating. In case of chronic HCV, millions of copies of the virus are produced in the body. This disease can spread from an infected person to uninfected one via blood. Sharing needles or any equipment used to inject medicines is one of the biggest risk factors for the disease. Proper treatments for Hep C at the right time can help in managing the disease.
It should be noted that HCV is not transmitted due to casual contact, sharing food or mosquito bites. Most of the cases have been reported to occur due to used injections. The risks include receiving organ transplants, long-term hemodialysis, and exposure to the needle stick, being born to a mother with HCV, snorting drugs, and unexplained liver disease. If you experience any of these causes then you are certainly at the risk of developing this disease.
Test and diagnosis
People often tend to overlook how serious Hep C can actually be. Also, it is very rarely diagnosed during the acute phase which is why it goes unnoticed most of the times. A person who is infected with the virus is more likely to develop the chronic illness and even pass it on without even knowing. It is a very rare occurrence when the virus does not affect the body. Screening tests are always available for those who have developed the disease. HCV antibody screen is the test that can be taken. A negative test would mean that a person is not exposed. However, a positive test signifies that the person is exposed to HCV. It does not prove that they have an ongoing infection though.
After the test is positive then one can go for the next test called HCV RNA which demonstrates whether the virus is still present. Upon this, the treatments for Hep C begin.
Treatment for Hep C
The treatment removes the virus from the body. A combination of medicines is used to remove the virus. The medication, as well as the duration of the treatments for Hep C, is based on the genotype of the virus. Direct-acting anti-viral are the agents that are used to treat the disease. Medication interrupts the lifecycle of the virus and also disrupts the reproduction of the viral cells.
Long ago when the DAAs were not available, treatments for Hep C were uncomfortable as well as lengthy. Over the years the cure rates have increased to 90%. It takes 8 to 12 weeks of time to completely treat an HCV patient. The medicines as such do not have any side effects except for fatigue and headache.
It should be noted that everyone does not need a treatment and at times the immune system of the infected person effectively clears away any infections. In this case, your doctor might simply monitor your liver function.
The treatment options used previously used to require 48 weeks of treatment. But with the advanced technology, the side effects have receded. Moreover, now the treatment required also lasts for a short period of time. You should consult your doctor to find out the best possible option for your particular case.