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Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. Like Hepatitis B, the impact of Hepatitis C on the liver is what makes it dangerous. The liver is a vital part of the body, and if it does not work properly, it can cause serious illness.
If Left Undiagnosed?
If left undiagnosed, in time Hepatitis C can lead to permanent liver damage as well as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
How is it Spread?
Typically, to become infected with hepatitis C virus, the blood of an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. The most common ways this occurs include sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs, needle-stick injuries in a health care setting, or getting infected as a result of birth from a mother with hepatitis C.
Infection of Hepatitis C, like all other STIs, is also possible through sexual contact with an infected person. The risk increases with the more sex partners someone has, the presence of other sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and rough sex.
It is also possible, but less likely, to become infected with shared use of personal care items such as toothbrushes and razors.
What are the Symptoms?
Many people may show no symptoms when first infected with the Hepatitis C virus while others may find their urine becomes dark, their eyes and skin may turn yellow (jaundice), or they may experience a minor flu-like illness. These symptoms may disappear within a few weeks, but the infection may still be present.
When the initial infection lasts for more than six months, it is called Chronic Hepatitis C.
Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C include:
- mild to severe tiredness
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- soreness in the upper right side of the stomach (under the ribs)
- increased moodiness and depression
- joint pain
How is it Tested?
SmartHealth tests for Hepatitis C with a blood test that detects for the presence of the protein that immune systems make in response to the Hepatitis C virus.
Although progress is being made Hepatitis C is not usually curable, and is usually best managed with a healthy diet, fluids and rest. Any Hepatitis C management plan should be developed by a doctor.
For those few who have overcome a Hepatitis C infection, despite no longer having the Hepatitis C virus and no longer being infectious, they will still have Hepatitis C antibodies in their blood.
To avoid the consequences of long term damage from Hepatitis C infection, regular testing for the virus is recommended for those at risk.
Hepatitis C is a notifiable disease which means that doctors and laboratories are legally required to notify state and federal health departments about new cases. This information is treated confidentially and the statistics used for public health planning.