Hepatitis C: What You Need To Know


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Hepatitis C affects over 70 million people worldwide, with around 3.5 million Americans currently infected. Worryingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that at least 50% of people with Hepatitis C are not yet diagnosed. This may be because the early stages of Hepatitis C have few recognizable symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose.

Anyone can unwittingly contract Hepatitis C; however, baby boomers are particularly susceptible to suffering from undiagnosed Hepatitis C — due to a lack of routine testing. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the early symptoms of Hepatitis C and to seek prompt treatment.

 What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that can lead to severe liver damage. Around 1% of people in the U.S. have the disease, but as it causes few symptoms, many of them aren’t aware. The virus can be spread through an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids.

There are several stages of Hepatitis C, including;

Incubation period - The incubation period of Hepatitis C is the time between your first exposure to the virus and the start of the disease — this can range from 14 to 80 days; however, it’s typically 45 days.

Acute hepatitis C - The first six months of infection of the virus is referred to as Acute Hepatitis C. During this stage; some people can clear the virus on their own.

Chronic hepatitis C - If your body isn’t able to clear the virus during the Acute Hepatitis stage, it becomes a long-term infection. This is a more severe form of the virus that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

Cirrhosis - Cirrhosis causes inflammation that, over time, scars your liver tissue. This typically takes around 20 to 30 years; however, if you drink alcohol or have HIV, it can be faster.

Liver cancer - The scarring and inflammation from cirrhosis often make liver cancer more likely. If you have cirrhosis of the liver, it’s essential to get regular screenings as there are typically no symptoms until it’s advanced.

Who Is At Risk Of Hepatitis C?

Anyone can contract Hepatitis C; however, injection drug use is currently the most common risk factor associated with the disease.

You are also at a high-risk for hepatitis C if you have ever;

  • Received a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or blood products before 1992
  • Received a tattoo with unsterilized needles
  • Used recreational drugs (even if only once)
  • Shared personal items that can retain blood such as a toothbrush or razor
  • Have been incarcerated
  • Have HIV or AIDS
  • Are the child of an infected mother

What Are The Early Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

As Hepatitis C causes damage to the liver, impaired liver function is the main symptom. Unfortunately, according to Healthline, around 80% of acute Hepatitis C cases are not diagnosed due to a lack of symptoms.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C infection include;

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain

How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed?

It can take many years of being infected with Hepatitis C before your symptoms become recognizable. Fortunately, a simple HCV antibody blood test can let you know if you have contracted the virus. It’s important to note that it can take four to 10 weeks for Hepatitis C to show up in blood tests.

If your blood test is positive for hepatitis C, your doctor can also perform a biopsy on your liver to determine if it’s been damaged and to what extent.

How Do You Treat Hepatitis C?

The good news is that Hepatitis C is curable, and up to 20 percent of people who contract acute Hepatitis C recover from the virus completely. Even if you develop chronic Hepatitis C, it’s still possible to treat it.

Possible treatments include;

Antiviral Medication - Antivirals differ in how they work; however, they all target the hepatitis C virus by interfering with protein synthesis within the virus. Antiviral medicines are incredibly effective and can often eradicate the Hepatitis C virus within 12 weeks.

Home Remedies: Although there are many purported home remedies for Hepatitis C, no alternative medicine has been proven successful to treat or remove the virus. Potential home treatments that may improve your symptoms and promote general useful health include;

  • Milk Thistle: Silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, is an antioxidant that works by reducing free radicals, and is believed to have a detoxifying effect that may help to strengthen liver cells and prevent damage.
  • Castor Oil: Some people believe that castor oil applied to the skin directly over the liver can help to reduce inflammation.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): NAC is an amino acid that turns into glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that can trigger a sustained viral response is taken in conjunction with antiviral medications.

The Bottom Line

Hepatitis C can easily be spread through contact with others, so it’s crucial to have regular tests if you’re experiencing any symptoms. Even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms, it’s still essential to test for Hepatitis C if you want peace of mind, as in the early stages, it is often asymptomatic.

Catching this virus early can save you the pain and financial impact of significant liver damage. By keeping up to date with the latest Hepatitis C research and educating yourself about your potential risk factors, you can empower yourself and ensure you stay in good health. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of Hepatitis screening with your doctor.

https://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/timeline.htm, https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/symptoms, https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm#E4, https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/hepatitis/hepatitis_c/whos_at_risk.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm

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Sergio Cruz

Head Writer

Sergio has been writing for online blogs and news sites for almost 10 years! There isn't a topic he hasn't written about. When he's not busy researching and writing articles, Sergio likes to spend his time traveling and playing guitar.