Basic Information on Hepatitis C

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Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) was first discovered in 1989. It is one of the two most common causes of chronic Hepatitis, the other being Hepatitis B.

Risk Factors

Blood from an infected person, IV drug use, tattooing, bodypiercing, blood transfusion and unsafe sexual practices.

Image courtesy of CDC/ E.H. Cook, Jr.

Symptoms

HCV can be a progressive disease. Also, it can be asymptomatic until cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer develops. Usually there are no signs of the acute infection, though one can experience fatigue, upper abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, painful joints and jaundice.

Complications

HCV can cause progressive disease in about 85% of the persons who acquire the acute infection. Twenty percent of these people develop cirrhosis and 5% develop liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).

Diagnosis

There are blood tests to show if one has had contact with the virus (HCV antibody) and if one has the disease (HCV viral lead).

How to Prevent Infection in Others?

If you are HCV positive:

Do not share syringes, cups & glasses, water or straws.
Do not share razor, toothbrushes.
Use latex condoms and tell your spouse that you have Hepatitis C
Cover cuts and sores on skin
Tell dentists and doctors that you are Hepatitis C Positive.

Treatment:

Certain genotypes of Hepatitis C virus respond to treatment. Your physician or a specialist will determine this treatment, which is quite expensive.

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The writer enjoys medical education and has special interest in community medicine.