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Hepatitis C by Lina Palazzolo

By at October 21, 2012 | 6:27 am | Print

Hepatitis C is a virus that is acquired by blood to blood contact that destroys the cells in the liver.  In the U.S.there are millions of people who are infected with the virus and have either no symptoms or a mild symptom of fatigue.  A person may experience symptoms decades after they have been exposed.  Once a person is infected, the hepatitis c virus can be detected in the blood six months after the exposure.

The most common ways that the hepatitis c virus is transmitted is by blood transfusion that has been unscreened, infected needles and sexual intercourse.  Since the hepatitis c virus can be in your body for decades without a person knowing they have it, the virus has plenty of time to damage the liver to the point of cirrhosis.  Cirrhosis is scarring in the liver which begins to affect the function of the liver.  In rare cases, the damaged liver can develop into cancer.

Once a liver is damaged enough, it gets to a point where it no longer works properly.  When a person is diagnosed with the hepatitis c virus they are usually referred to an infectious disease doctor.  The next step is to determine the advancement of the disease and the condition of the liver.  Your doctor may recommend doing a liver biopsy which will give an accurate reading on the liver.  From this the doctor can recommend the next course of action for treating the virus.  If the hepatitis c virus is caught in the early stages it can be treated with medications that can get rid of the virus from your body.

The treatment that is used to treat hepatitis c is called interferon, which is usually added by the oral medication of ribavirin.  The treatment is usually for a few weeks.  When the treatment had ended, a blood test will determine if the virus is still there.  There is a seventy percent success rate if the disease is found in the early stages.  If the liver has reached a point of cirrhosis, a liver transplant is the next option.  Symptoms of cirrhosis are feeling tired, yellowing of the skin and eyes, loss of appetite and abdominal area swelling with fluid.  Once a person with hepatitis c gets a liver transplant, it does not cure the disease.  Treatment with anti-rejection and antiviral medications will continue due to the fact that the virus will eventually damage the new liver.  Each recipient of a transplant has very different success rates based on the patient’s health, age, etc.

Just recently in August 2012, the CDC published an article recommending that people born between the years 1945-1965 should be tested for the hepatitis c virus.  The amount of people that are testing positive for the virus is alarming.  Some people may feel apprehensive about being tested, but it could save your life.  In order to be tested all you need to do is ask your doctor for a blood test.  Due to the fact that it is a silent virus, the earliest detection is critical for successful treatment.

References:

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/index.htm

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097

 

 

 

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