The Hepatitis Virus Attacking the Liver

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HBV).  The hepatitis C virus attacks the liver, causing inflammation. If the inflammation is not reversed, it can cause chronic liver disease, which can be serious or even fatal. At least 75% of people infected with hepatitis C develop chronic hepatitis C.  This is why it’s considered to be the most serious out of all the Hepatitis viruses

Hepatitis C is the ‘Silent Epidemic.’  About 2.7 million people in the U.S. have chronic Hepatitis C.

It’s been called the “silent epidemic” because people can be infected for 30 or more years and have no idea they have it.  In some cases, by the time you have hepatitis C symptoms, life-threatening damage has already occurred.

The only way to know for sure if you have Hepatitis C is to get Tested.

What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

Liver Damage caused by Hepatitis C

Although hepatitis C does severe damage the liver, 80% of people with the disease have no signs or symptoms.

In those who do, symptoms may not appear for 10-20 years. Even then, the symptoms usually come and go and are mild and vague. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms appear, the damage may be very serious.

Some infected people have flu-like symptoms during the early phase of the infection:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Pale-colored stool
  • Pain over the liver (on the right side of the abdomen, just under the rib cage)
  • Jaundice- A condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow

Once the virus has been allowed to work for many years, liver damage becomes irreversible.  Hepatitis C is a top reason for liver transplants.

A person of any age, sex, race, or sexual orientation can get infected with Hepatitis C.  Hepatitis C spreads by infected blood, so the most common ways to get the disease include:

  • Sharing needles, syringes, spoons, water or other instruments used to inject drugs.
  • Having unprotected Vaginal, Anal or Oral Sex, especially with someone infected with HIV.
  • Had a blood transfusion before 1992.

More rarely, you can become infected by:

  • A tattoo, body piercing or acupuncture business that doesn’t sterilize their needles properly.
  • Sharing anything that may have infected blood on it, such as razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers.

Many people with Hepatitis have no symptoms.  A person who doesn’t know they are infected is often responsible for infecting others.

If the mother is infected with Hepatitis C, there is a 1 in 25 chance that the baby will be born with the virus. The risk is the same regardless of whether the birth occurs by vaginal delivery or by C-Section.

The risk is higher if the mother is also HIV infected.

About 1 in 5 infected infants will beat Hepatitis C without any medical help. For those who become chronically infected, most have no symptoms except for abnormal liver enzymes.  Chronic Liver Disease usually advances slower in children with Hepatitis C than in adults who were infected later in life.

Hepatitis C treatment is advancing rapidly.  Just a few years ago, the standard medication had only a 50% success rate, and came with severe side effects.  Today, new drugs less than 5 years old have raised the cure rate to nearly 100%, with the only side effects in clinical trials being headache and fatigue.

The downside is the massive cost.  Some drugs cost almost $100,000 for a 12 week supply, and many insurance companies will not pay.  Your treatment will depend on many things, including what genotype of hepatitis C virus you have.  You may also be recommended a liver transplant, is the damage done to your liver is too great to recover from.

Hepatitis C Test

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The Hepatitis C Virus Antibody test is a blood test that looks for antibodies of the virus that causes hepatitis C. This test cannot tell the difference between an acute or chronic infection. The earliest this test should be taken is 6 weeks after a possible exposure.

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