Hepatitis C - Health Center
By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST
Hepatitis C: Basic Overview
Hepatitis C is an infection which is caused by a virus attacking the liver leading to the inflammation of the organ. Most people who are infected with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) tend to show no symptoms. The infection is not evident until the liver damage starts to show up and is diagnosed after the medical tests.
Hepatitis C is one of the many Hepatitis Viruses which are considered one of the most serious of all the viruses. The infection with this virus can be caused due to contact with the contaminated blood. Use of infected needles during drug use has emerged as one of the major causes of Hepatitis C.
Causes of Hepatitis C:
Hepatitis C infection is caused due to the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). The HCV is spread when a person comes in contact with the blood which has previously been contaminated with the virus. The exposures to the virus are increased due to the usage of infected needles during illegal drug use. The following people are at an increased risk of contracting the disease:
- People who inject drugs or share a needle with someone suffering from Hepatitis C.
- Have unprotected sex with an infected person.
- Children born to a mother suffering from Hepatitis C
- Have an organ transplant from a donor suffering from Hepatitis C
- Sharing of personal items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.
- Have received a blood transfusion from an infected person.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis C:
Usually, there are no signs or symptoms of the disease in the early stages. However, when the disease has progressed to the advanced stages, the symptoms are as follows:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Swelling of the abdomen due to accumulation of fluid (Ascites)
- Pale colour of the stools
- Dark colour of the urine
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Fever and itching
- Jaundice, especially in kids
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting and nausea
- Muscle and joint pains
It is recommended to see a doctor if you have been suffering from the above mentioned signs and symptoms.
Tests and Diagnosis of Hepatitis C:
Screening for the disease needs to be done for the patients who are at a high risk of contracting the disease. In the beginning, the doctors check the state of the liver, as it is the major organ to be affected by the disease. The infection usually begins damaging the liver before showing any major signs or symptoms.
Blood tests are done in order to check for the presence of Hepatitis C Virus.
EIA Assay tests are done in order to detect the presence of Hepatitis C Antibody
Hepatitis C RNA Assays are used in order to measure the viral levels in the blood.
Also anyone who was born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened for the presence of the virus.
Genetic Tests is done in order to check for the genotype of the Hepatitis C Virus. There are six major types of genotypes which are present for the virus. The test results can help the doctors to check and choose the right kind of treatment option.
The following are the tests which are used for the diagnosis of the HCV:
- Albumin Test
- Liver function Tests
- Prothrombin Time
- Liver Biopsy
Treatment and Drugs for Hepatitis C:
Once the disease has been diagnosed, the next step is the assignment of a treatment option for the disease.
Antiviral Medications are used in order to clear the presence of the virus from the body. The doctors can recommend a combination of medications to be taken over a period of several weeks. The reaction to the medications is checked over the course of the treatment. Several side effects such as fatigue, fever and headache are the major outcomes of the treatment.
Liver Transplant is an option which is recommended in some of the severe cases of Hepatitis C. During the liver transplant, the affected organ is removed and is replaced with a healthy one. Even when the transplant has been done, antiviral medications are prescribed in order to prevent the reoccurrence of the infection.
Vaccinations against the virus are also available readily in the market.