Chronic hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Once the virus enters the body, it can lead to an infection in the liver. After some time, the infection will cause scarring of the liver and prevents it from functioning optimally. Remember that this condition can be deadly if not treated. Many individuals who have hepatitis C are not even aware that they have the condition. Even though there are vaccines against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is still no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Acute versus chronic
Acute and chronic hepatitis C are essentially the same. When an individual is initially infected, he/she develops acute hepatitis C that lasts for about 6 months. Many do not have any symptoms during the acute stage, thus they do not know that they are even infected.
Many who have acute hepatitis C will later on end up with chronic hepatitis C. In this stage, many can suffer from severe liver damage or even cirrhosis.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Chronic hepatitis C is usually hard to diagnose since most individuals do not have any early symptoms. Only a small percentage of cases experience muscle aches, fatigue or appetite loss when the virus was initially acquired. You can enroll in a first aid course today to learn measures to ease these symptoms.
Most of the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C do not manifest until cirrhosis develops and the liver starts to malfunction. Symptoms such as weight loss, weakness and blood clotting issues can start. Oftentimes, fluid can accumulate in the abdomen. In addition, jaundice only manifest with advanced cirrhosis.
How hepatitis C spreads
Many can acquire hepatitis C by contact with infected blood. Those who are infected can spread the virus to others by sharing needles. Due to this, hepatitis C easily spreads among intravenous drug users.
It is also possible to become infected by sharing a razor or even a toothbrush. On the other hand, the risk of infection is lower though. Even though transmission via sexual contact is possible, it is not common.
How chronic hepatitis C is diagnosed
A blood test is a sure way to confirm a hepatitis C infection. The common test is an HCV antibody test where a positive result indicates that the individual has been exposed to the virus, but it does not necessarily mean that he/she is infected. When confirming an infection, the HCV viral load test is performed to check for genetic material if the individual is carrying the virus.
The commonly used treatment for chronic hepatitis C is a combination of ribavirin and interferon which is called dual therapy. The interferons work by boosting the immune system so that the body can fight the infection. As for ribavirin, it controls and slows down the infection and eliminates the hepatitis C virus.
The individual is required to take these medications up to a year to completely eliminate the hepatitis C virus. The potential side effects of dual therapy include fever, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches, chills and hair loss.