Hepatitis C primarily affects the liver. Often asymptomatic, it is an infectious illness that is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. If the virus is able to find its way into the body past the immune system it could lead to the scarring of the liver or fibrosis, and advanced scarring or cirrhosis at a later stage. Cirrhosis could eventually lead to liver failure and, in its final stage, could even develop into liver cancer. The Hepatitis C virus is carried by human blood and spreads on contact.
The disease can be treated with various drugs and requires constant observation. Liver cancer or cirrhosis at an advanced stage might require a liver transplant, although it has been found that the Hepatitis C virus can seep into the liver even after transplantation. Surveys have shown that an approximate 200 to 300 million people have been infected by Hepatitis C. Officially discovered in 1989, Hepatitis C forms a part of the five known viruses of Hepatitis – A,B,C,D and E. As of yet, there are no vaccines against it and it is estimated that just 51% of people infected have been able to recover completely.
The symptoms of Hepatitis C are not instantly evident. They appear only once the disease has begun to cause liver damage, which can take up to 10 years. These symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)
- Easy bruising
- A longer time than usual for bleeding to stop
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dark yellow urine
The infection stages of Hepatitis are divided into two broad areas that include acute and chronic. A person is in the acute stage for the first six months after being infected by the Hepatitis C virus and the symptoms that occur are usually non-specific in nature. A blood test is essential in determining whether an individual has been infected.
Hepatitis C is spread as follows:
- Having unprotected sex
- Getting tattooed or pierced with unsterilized needles
- Using an infected person’s razor or toothbrush
- Sharing injection needles
- A child can be born with it if its mother is infected
In order to protect youself from Hepatitis C, you should only use new or sterilized needles, use condoms when having sex, do not share toothbrushes or razors and wear gloves if you come into contact with another person’s blood.
Image attribution: Wikimedia File:HCV structure.png, File:Hemochromatosis liver iron prussian blue.jpgTags: cancer HIV