• Living with Hepatitis C

    on Jun 26th, 2017

One of the scarier things to think about when it comes to our health, and it’s probably what keeps hypochondriacs up at night, is the idea that there could be something silently going on in our bodies that’s potentially dangerous. There are many conditions that can lie dormant for years without causing any problems. You may not even think to get checked for them. Once they do become an issue, however, they are impossible to ignore and can be serious. Typically, when one talks about “silent disease” it’s usually in regards to hypertension since high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and is impossible to know about unless you get it regularly checked. But, for thousands of people, there is another silent disease they should be mindful of and it’s one that can cause serious harm to your liver.

That disease is hepatitis C. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause serious medical problems. Is it something you need to worry about, though? While it isn’t as widespread as it used to be due to advancements in blood screening, it still affects millions of people in the world every year. It’s important to know the risk factors and if you could be suffering from undiagnosed hepatitis C. Here is what you need to know about the disease and treatment should it be discovered that you have it.

What causes hepatitis C?

If you go back to your childhood, you probably don’t remember getting vaccines early in life for hepatitis. That’s because they are generally delivered while you’re very young. However, they’ll be on your medical record. What you may not realize is that the vaccine course you received back then has no bearing on hepatitis C. That’s because there are five different kinds of hepatitis, each with a different cause.

Hepatitis B and C are the most common types and B has a vaccine. Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood. For many years, blood transfusions and unsafe needle practices caused infection. While blood transfusions now undergo much more rigorous monitoring, hepatitis C can still be transmitted with intravenous drug use (sharing of needles). Sexual transmission is possible, but it is quite rare. Hepatitis B is more commonly transmitted through sex. The HCV virus that causes hepatitis C can progressively cause more liver damage due to inflammation as time goes on.

Who should be tested for it?

Anyone who develops symptoms generally associated with liver trouble should be tested for hepatitis C. Symptoms like fever, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, jaundice, dark urine, and clay-colored stools all point towards issues related to the liver. However, there are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of hepatitis C than others and you should get tested if any of the following applies to you. Anyone born between 1945-1965, anyone who has ever used intravenous drugs, people with HIV, anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ donation prior to July 1992, people on dialysis, and anyone who is accidentally stuck with a needle should all get tested for the virus. Acute flare-ups will cause the symptoms listed above, but you could just as easily have the disease and not know it due to no symptoms presenting.

What are the long-term effects?

Hepatitis C can put your life at risk. Acute hepatitis attacks can shut down the liver, putting you in a critical state. Long-term, you’re looking at a much higher probability of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer within the next twenty years or so. That’s because as the inflammation damages the liver, it becomes irrevocably harmed. While it’s true the liver is great at healing itself when given the chance, the hepatitis C virus stops this repair from happening. That’s why early intervention is so important.

How can hepatitis C be managed?

Acute cases of hepatitis respond well to a medication course. These medications can relieve chronic hepatitis symptoms in some cases as well. While hepatitis C is curable with the right treatment course, everyone’s bodies are different and you may be looking at management rather than outright cure if you’ve had the condition for years. Dietary and lifestyle changes designed to protect your liver from further damage will be essential to leading a life in relatively good health.

Conclusion

Hepatitis C can be a serious problem. Acute cases can bring many troubling and dangerous symptoms that require immediate treatment. Chronic hepatitis infection can raise your chances of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the outlook for recovery or maintenance. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. The team at Pure Medicine is dedicated to providing you with the best care so you can live a healthier life. Hepatitis C is treatable, but you need the best care as soon as possible.

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