Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and damages it. This leads to inflammation of the liver. The virus that causes this condition is the hepatitis C Virus (HCV). This disease was identified in the year 1989 until when it was termed as non-hepatitis A and non-hepatitis B. HCV is one amongst the well-known hepatitis strains of hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
As of 2015, about 2% of the world, that is, around an estimate of 143 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. Though there are various methods of treatment available for this disease, there is no availability of vaccines to prevent the occurrence of this disease. The disease is spread by direct blood to blood contact. It is a highly contagious disease. The spreading of the disease occurs majorly due to organ transplant, blood transfusion, sharing needles (usually with the usage of intravenous medicines), body modifications (tattooing with unsterile needles, nose/ear piercing), shared items (sharing items such as razors and toothbrush), during childbirth (the mother can pass down the virus to the child), and sexual contact (if it involves the exchange of blood).
There are various methods of treatment for this disease. Few do not need a treatment because the antibodies produced as a natural phenomenon by the body take care of fighting off the infection. They are given antiviral medications and are constantly monitored. The identification of the presence of these antibodies in the blood is a method of detection. For the patients whose level of liver scarring is high, a liver transplant is recommended.
Symptoms of hepatitis C
In humans, the symptoms of hepatitis C are not obvious and are dormant for a long term. In order to be able to avail proper treatment for this highly contagious disease, here is a list of symptoms of hepatitis C.
- Acute infection
Acute symptoms are noticed in about 15% of the cases of hepatitis C. The acute infection is mild. The spontaneous resolution of the infection happens in 10-50% of the population showing acute infection symptoms. This spontaneous resolution of the infection is most common in the young people and if they are female. The various symptoms that occur due to acute infection are fatigue, muscle and joint pain, decreased appetite, nausea, weight loss. There is a slight chance of total liver failure in the case of acute infection. Most of these cases are not accompanied or associated with jaundice.
- Chronic infection
Chronic infection symptoms are noticed in about 80% of the cases of hepatitis C. The chronic infection is severe. The existence of chronic infection means that the virus has replicated in the body for a span of at least six months. This type of infection to the liver causes what is known as cirrhosis. It is the scarring of the liver caused by many liver ailments of which hepatitis C is one. Hepatitis C is the cause of 27% of the cirrhosis cases recorded worldwide. Many of the symptoms of cirrhosis are Portal hypertension (it is the high blood pressure in the hepatic portal system), easy bruising or bleeding, fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), enlarged veins in the esophagus and stomach, jaundice, and hepatic encephalopathy (a cognitive impairment syndrome).
Chronic infection of hepatitis C is associated with mild cognitive problems and fatigue. The existence of chronic infection for years together results in liver cancer.
- Occult infection
Sometimes the affected person who seems to have steered clear of the hepatitis C from his system might actually not be completely safe from the virus. The hepatitis C virus becomes undetectable by conventional testing methods (by demonstrating the existence of HCV or its genome in the biopsies extracted from the liver). This becomes difficult to analyze and detect. Therefore newer methods are introduced and more detailed analysis is performed in order to tackle the infection.
The symptoms are that of the existence of elevated enzymes of the liver serum. This occurs alongside the non-occurrence of antibodies in the blood samples. The aftermath of occult infection is not as severe as that of chronic infections.
The most common symptoms of hepatitis C are as follows:
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Joint and muscular pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Yellowing of eyes or of skin
- Weight loss
- Breast enlargement in men
- Blood clotting
Even though the detection of the infection seems to be difficult, the infection is curable. Alongside proper hygiene maintenance, a constant checkup with the doctors helps in easy detection and elimination of the occurrence of infection.
Good eating and drinking habits are essential during and after the treatment because hepatitis C affects one of the vital organs of the human body – the liver.