Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can cause inflammation and damage to the liver over time. Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with contaminated blood, such as through sharing needles or equipment used to inject drugs, receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, or being born to a mother with hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is transmitted primarily through contact with infected blood. Here are the most common ways it can be transmitted:
Injecting drug use: The sharing of needles and other drug injection equipment is the most common way hepatitis C is transmitted.
Blood transfusions: Prior to 1992, some blood transfusions and organ transplants were not screened for hepatitis C, which means some people may have contracted the virus this way.
Medical procedures: If healthcare workers come into contact with infected blood and then fail to properly sterilize equipment, the virus can be transmitted from person to person.
Sexual contact: While less common, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual contact, particularly among people with multiple sexual partners.
Mother to child: There is a small risk of transmission during childbirth from an infected mother to her baby.
It’s important to note that hepatitis C is not spread through casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing utensils.
Many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms do occur, they can vary widely in both severity and duration. Here are some common symptoms of hepatitis C:
Fatigue: This is one of the most common symptoms of hepatitis C. It can range from mild to severe and can interfere with daily activities.
Joint pain: Many people with hepatitis C experience joint pain, especially in the hands and feet.
Abdominal pain: Some people with hepatitis C experience pain or discomfort in the abdomen, often on the right side where the liver is located.
Loss of appetite: This is a common symptom of hepatitis C, and may be accompanied by weight loss.
Nausea and vomiting: These symptoms can occur due to the effects of hepatitis C on the liver.
Jaundice: This is a yellowing of the skin and eyes, and can occur when the liver is not functioning properly.
Dark urine and pale stools: Changes in urine and stool color can be a sign of hepatitis C.
It’s important to note that many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms at all, and that symptoms can come and go or be very mild. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have hepatitis C. If you suspect you may have been exposed to the virus, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about testing.
Hepatitis C can be cured with medications that target the virus and prevent it from replicating in the body. The most commonly used medications for hepatitis C are antiviral drugs called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), which are taken orally for a period of several weeks to several months. DAAs are highly effective, with cure rates of over 95% in most cases.
The specific treatment regimen will depend on various factors, such as the genotype (strain) of the hepatitis C virus, the extent of liver damage, and the patient’s overall health. Treatment may involve a combination of different medications and can last from 8 to 24 weeks.
In addition to medication, lifestyle changes can also help manage hepatitis C and improve liver health. This includes avoiding alcohol and other substances that can harm the liver, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting vaccinated against other liver diseases such as hepatitis A and B.
It’s important to note that while hepatitis C can be cured, it is still possible to become re-infected with the virus after successful treatment. It’s important to take steps to avoid exposure to the virus, such as not sharing needles or other injection equipment, using protection during sex, and avoiding exposure to contaminated blood.
Preventing hepatitis C involves taking steps to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Here are some ways to prevent hepatitis C:
Avoid sharing needles or other injection equipment: This is the most common way hepatitis C is transmitted. Do not share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment with others.
Use precautions during sex: While less common, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual contact. Using condoms can reduce the risk of transmission.
Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B: Vaccines are available to protect against these other forms of viral hepatitis, which can cause additional liver damage.
Be cautious when getting tattoos or body piercings: Make sure the equipment used is sterile and has not been used previously on someone else.
Avoid sharing personal care items: Do not share razors, toothbrushes, or other personal care items that may come into contact with blood.
Be cautious when handling blood or blood products: If you work in healthcare or are otherwise at risk of exposure to blood, take appropriate precautions to protect yourself.
Screen blood and organ donations: In most countries, blood and organ donations are screened for hepatitis C, but it’s important to make sure that the screening process is thorough.
By taking these precautions, you can greatly reduce the risk of exposure to hepatitis C and protect your liver health.
Mozocare is dedicated to providing quality healthcare services to individuals who are facing various health challenges, including hepatitis C. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of hepatitis C, we encourage you to reach out to us for assistance. Our team of experienced medical professionals is committed to providing comprehensive care and support to those in need.