Hepatitis C is an infection that affects the liver and it is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. The Hepatitis C virus is one of the several numerous viruses that causes viral hepatitis. Hepatitis C belongs to a viral family called Flaviviridae. It causes liver inflammation and like hepatitis B, it can cause liver damage and liver failure.
Hepatitis C occurs in so many several different forms and types and they are commonly known as the Hepatitis C genotypes. Some genotypes are found in North America and Europe is known as type 1 and it is predominantly the most common type found around this area.
Hepatitis genotype 2 is commonly found in some areas around America and also some other parts in Europe. Other genotypes affect other regions such as Africa and Asia. But the most common genotypes seen around the world today is genotype 1 and genotype 2.
All genotypes pretty much have the same symptoms and follows the same order. Chronic hepatitis C always follow the same pattern despite the genotype or form it comes in. Although treatments are also determined by the genotype or form it comes in.
There are some facts that must be known about the hepatitis C virus and how to manage or treat it. They include:
- Just like hepatitis B, hepatitis C also comes in two phases; the acute pause and the Chronic phase with the Chronic phase being the severe phase.
- More than 3 million people are currently estimated by statistics to be infected with Hepatitis C in America.
- In majority of the people infected initially with the acute hepatitis C, it becomes chronic hepatitis in a matter of months.
- Most people having hepatitis C hardly know they have it until they begin to have liver failure I.e. when it has become chronic.
- Hepatitis C hardly has any distinct symptoms and most of its symptoms are seen as general symptoms.
- People who have chronic hepatitis C usually presents with liver cirrhosis. They may not even know that they have chronic hepatitis C until they begin to experience liver scarring (cirrhosis).
- Hepatitis C is a virus transmitted by the blood and unlike hepatitis A and B, it can’t be transmitted during sex or by body fluids. It majority infects those who have come in contact with even a small quantity of infected blood.
This may occur during the administration of injections by unqualified and inexperienced personnel. It may also occur to people who were transfused with unscreened infected blood during blood transfusions.
- Majority of people who are infected with hepatitis C will most likely get liver cirrhosis and liver cancer
- Majority of patients who are infected with Hepatitis C will ultimately in a limited amount of time need to get a new liver and undergo liver transplant
- Hepatitis C rarely affects children, but a little minority of children are still found with the virus. This disease mostly affects adults.
- A mother can infect her child with hepatitis C at birth and hence transfer the infection to her child. Hence, 1 or 2 infants out of every 20 births are already infected with hepatitis C even before they are born or just at birth.
- Adolescents also are affected with this disease although they get theirs by sharing of infected needles and coming in contact with infected blood.
- If a child is infected at birth, there is an 60% chance that the disease will resolve itself and go away on its own by the time they get to the age of 1yr 6months or latest when they are 2 years.
- This virus can also enter into the body system by a puncture wound made with an infected Sharp object
- Until very recently that there was an upgrade in the medical world, people with Hepatitis C usually required weekly injections and oral administrations and drugs which most patients detested taking or couldn’t take at all due to the unpleasant side effects or due to another underlying health condition in which the drugs could affect by contrasting the other drugs taken in for treatment of the underlying condition.
- Hepatitis C has no vaccine. Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B which have vaccines, hepatitis C has no vaccine. Due to the different genotypes that hepatitis C has, it is very difficult to develop a vaccine that can cure all forms and strains of this virus hence there is no vaccine for this disease or virus.
- Hepatitis can cause the bodies to produce abnormal and strange antibodies called cryoglobulins which will cause vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) which can damage any place where major blood vessels are found such as the skin, the heart, the kidneys etc.
- Patients with vasculitis caused from the production of cryoglobulins will have a condition called cryoglobulemia and therefore exhibit symptoms like arthritis, pain around the joints due to the inflammation of blood vessels around the joints which would cause a compression on the muscles leading to severe pain in and around the joints.
- The patient too will begin to a condition known as Raynaud’s phenomenon in which the toes and fingers begin to change color due to the lack of blood flow round them because of the inflammation of the blood vessels. At cold temperatures or when found in a cold environment, the fingers and toes will begin to experience severe pain.
- The patient will experience severe fevers when having hepatitis C. They will also have severe sweating and experience chills. This is the body’s response in trying to eliminate the disease.
- The patient will experience itching and edema (swelling) around some areas of the body. This is due to the fact that the liver which usually eliminates toxins in the body is infected and damaged hence toxins can’t be removed from the body. likewise, bilirubin which is normally processed by the liver can’t be processed anymore due to the decreased function of the liver.
To help with the itching however, antihistamines, analgesics and antidepressants are usually prescribed to help patients cope and live normally with Hepatitis C.
- The patient will also experience severe joint and muscular pains.
- Due to the malfunctioning of the liver, the patient will not be able to process bilirubin properly hence they start to pass out dark or dark-brown urine.
- The patient will be severely jaundiced and will presence with a yellowish coloration in the clear sclera of the eye and the skin will start to become yellow as well.
- If a patient has been infected before with Hepatitis C, the person can also be infected again with the same hepatitis C.
- People who receives or donates blood can be very prone to hepatitis C due to unsterilized infected needles which may be used. Also, children with infected mothers, HIV patients, and hemodialysis patients too are also very prone to getting Hepatitis C.
- Hepatitis C can be cured but it’s treatment depends on the genotype or form in which it is presented. Different genotypes have different treatments given or administered and no two genotypes share the same treatments.
For appropriate diagnosis and treatments, please consult your physician. Do not take over the counter drugs as this will also increase your chances of liver damage. And if there are any underlying conditions, discuss them with your physician before treatment so that the appropriate treatments can be administered.