Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an acute and long term infection that is estimated to affect 71 million chronic people around the world. This blood borne virus is transmitted through exposure to small quantities of blood and impacts the function of the liver. It can range from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks, to a serious and lifelong illness if left untreated. Search online to find out more about acute and chronic hepatitis C.
People with hepatitis C could unknowingly have the illness for months before experiencing symptoms. You can learn more about the incubation period and symptoms to look out for by searching online.
Here are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis C.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis C
While some people with Hepatitis C may experience uncomfortable symptoms, around half of people with this illness don’t even know they are infected. You may be asymptomatic for years. Symptoms will likely start to show once the virus has done enough damage to the liver and trigger symptoms.
Symptoms of hepatitis C include:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen
- Swelling in your legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin
The incubation period can range from two weeks to six months after exposure. Many cases of acute hepatitis C may not be diagnosed until a patient starts exhibiting symptoms. The good news is acute hepatitis C doesn’t always become chronic. It’s important for people who fall under one of the risk factors for this illness to be regularly screened in order to be treated before it progresses.
Risk Factors of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is spread when the blood of an HCV positive person enters the body of another person. This does not mean you can get HCV from things like sneezes, coughs, kisses, and basic touch — hepatitis C is transmitted only through blood-to-blood contact such as a break in the skin or mucous membrane.
There are a number of factors that increase your risk for hepatitis C. Those working in health care can potentially be exposed to infected blood if an infected needle pierces their skin. Getting a tattoo or piercing with unsterile equipment is another possible risk factor.
An age group with the highest incidence of hepatitis C are those born between 1945 and 1965, though a person of any age can be diagnosed if they’ve been exposed.
Other risk factors for hepatitis C include:
- Have HIV
- Have ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
- Were ever in prison
- Received a blood transition or organ transplant before 1992
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
- Born to a woman with hepatitis C
If someone is experiencing symptoms and/or falls under one of the risk factors, doctors will order them a blood test. The results of that test will determine whether they are HCV positive.
Treating Hepatitis C
After being diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor will decide on a course of treatment. This will greatly depend whether a patient’s condition is asymptomatic, acute, or chronic. Other factors to consider is if there is liver damage, how much virus is in the body, and other possible health conditions.
If someone knows they’ve been exposed to the virus, the infection can be detected early enough to recover from the virus. Doctors may prescribe antiviral medication, lots of fluids, a healthy diet, and avoid alcohol. You’ll have to get follow-up blood tests to find out if the body has completely recovered.
Long-term cases exist in patients with HCV for at least six months. Doctors will have to examine how much damage or scarring is present in the liver.
- Little to mild scarring (early stage fibrosis): Hepatitis C treatment is recommended to avoid long-term complications
- Severe scarring (cirrhosis): antiviral treatments will be recommended
In severe cases, patients may even develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. This decreased liver function could lead to potential liver failure. A liver transplant may be necessary if the patient is healthy enough to tolerate surgery and the recovery period. Ultimately, the type of medicine a patient is given will depend on their unique symptoms and health condition.
Learn More About Hepatitis C Online
Hepatitis C is a serious illness, but it can be treated if caught early enough. The best way to prevent it from developing into chronic hepatitis C is by getting tested immediately if you’ve been exposed to HCV positive blood, fall under one of the risk factors, and/or are experiencing symptoms. Search online to find out more about this illness and how it can be treated.