Hepatitis C virus causes liver inflammation also known as Hepatitis. It is difficult to flush out the virus and most infected persons become infected chronically with the virus. The virus affects the liver and in extreme cases may lead to the development of liver cancer.
How does Hepatitis C virus spread?
The HCV is transmitted due to exposure to infected blood. This could happen in various ways. A person may be exposed to the virus if:
- they have received blood transfusion prior to July 1992
- if they share needles when abusing intravenous street drugs or they are exposed to infected blood regularly during the course of their work (health workers)
- have been tattooed with shared needles or received acupuncture with an infected needle
- have inadvertently received blood or blood products from an infected person or have been donated an organ by them.
- an infected mother has a 5% chance of transmitting it to her unborn child.
- the Hepatitis C Virus is rarely transmitted sexually or by using the toothbrush or razor of an infected person
- people infected with HIV may be more at risk through such transmission.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Most infected people by Hepatitis C Virus show no symptoms of suffering from hepatitis, thus increasing the danger of transmission unknowingly. Others may show some or all of the following symptoms: fatigue, itching fever, lack of hunger, dark urine accompanied with nausea, abdominal pain or/and swelling, vomiting, jaundice, pale stools or bleeding from the stomach or esophagus.
Effects of the HCV
The virus causes hepatitis in the liver, which leads to scarring of the liver tissue. The scarring is known as Cirrhosis. Most infected people have symptoms that involve organs other than the scarred liver.
Over the years, the scarring increases and eventually leads to liver failure, this being among the leading causes of liver transplant in the United States. Unfortunately, a liver transplant does not mean freedom from the disease. The HCV infection may return after a few years of the transplant because the Hepatitis C virus infection is truly a chronic infection.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor will determine a HCV infection with the help of an EIA assay test. Hepatitis C RNA is conducted to determine the virus load. He will then determine the genotype of the virus. Liver damage is assessed and monitored with LFT, Prothrombin time and Albumin levels.
A good assessment will help chart out the treatment better. The doctor may order a liver biopsy to get an accurate idea about the damage suffered.
Doctors prescribe the recommended medicine to help control the Hepatitis C virus infection. The damage cannot be reversed and it is hoped that no further damage occurs. Most patients need to be on medicines for long periods. It is advisable that women who are treated for HCV infection should avoid pregnancies during and 6 months after the treatment because the medications are known to cause birth defects.
The medication may have adverse effects like nausea, hair loss, depression, anemia, fatigue, flu like symptoms and others. Also the patients infected by Hepatitis C virus need to be constantly monitored even when under medication.