Hepatitis C, also known as hep C, is a blood-borne viral disease that, if untreated, can cause serious liver failure, damage, liver cancer or cirrhosis in a patient. An individual who is infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), may not show symptoms of the disease for months or even years after being infected. Generally, symptoms of hep C are mild and flu-like, including fatigue, a loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, abdominal or joint pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools or jaundice.
These symptoms can come and go during the course of the disease and may not seem bothersome enough for an individual to seek medical help. It is possible that an individual can be infected with the hepatitis C virus and have few symptoms. The virus itself can be dormant in someone’s body for a substantial period of time. Most often hep C is discovered when a patient is already being treated for a different problem, and a series of blood tests are ordered. Blood tests and, occasionally, a liver biopsy, are necessary to properly diagnose the disease. Let’s learn more about hep C:
- How is hep c contracted?
Hep C is a blood-borne disease. You must come in contact with the blood of an infected person in order to contract the disease. Prior to July 1992, blood transfusions were not screened for the Hep C virus as they are today. Individuals who received a blood transfusion prior to this time may have been infected. Individuals who share needles when using street drugs are another source of infection. Hep C can be spread If medical or dental equipment is not sterilized properly. Tattoo needles that are not properly sterilized can spread the infection. Needle sticks are a cause of infection in health care workers. Basically, coming into contact with the blood of an individual already infected with Hep C is a primary source of infection.
- Treatments for hep C
Hep C is treatable and survivable. Previously, treatment was an average of 48 weeks long and centered around using interferon injections. Unfortunately, this method produces some rather unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, anemia, depression, nausea and diarrhea. Some patients are unable or unwilling to go through the full course of treatment. In recent years, treatment for Hepatitis C has been improved. More drugs have been developed that have gentler side effects. In addition, treatment time is often reduced from one year to a few months.
- Preventing hepatitis C
Preventing hep C requires that an individual be aware of the possibilities of hep C infection, and behaves responsibly. The use of condoms during sex can be helpful. Personal grooming items such as nail clippers or razors should never be shared. Grooming tools used for manicures, pedicures or tattoos should be maintained at a high standard of cleanliness and be disinfected between uses. Drug needles should not be shared or reused. If an individual feels they have been exposed to the Hep C virus, they should consult their physician immediately.