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Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that can predispose to serious damage. Hepatitis C is contracted when one comes into contact with the Hepatitis C virus. However, the primary vehicles of transfer are bodily fluids and an infected person's blood. There are also many forms of the virus, and each one responds differently to treatment.
Hepatitis C Stages
It is also important to understand that Hepatitis C occurs in various stages and can affect people in different ways.
The first phase is the incubation period. This is the stage in which one is initially exposed to the disease. This stage usually lasts up to 80 days, but is usually around 45 on average.
The next phase is the acute phase, and this is a short-term illness that will last around 6 months once the virus has entered your body. Once this happens, there are some people who will have it extracted.
If that phase goes on longer, they will then enter the chronic phase. Once one enters this phase of Hepatitis C, it becomes a long-term infection. A long-term infection such as this can also lead to further complications such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Cirrhosis is a disease that leads to inflammation that replaces healthy liver cells with prominent scar tissue. For this to happen, it can take around 20 to 30 years. However, this process is expedited if you have HIV or drink alcohol frequently. Having cirrhosis will also make liver cancer far more likely, and your doctor will ensure that you get regular screenings, since it can present as asymptomatic. In terms of specific symptoms you should be looking for in Hepatitis C, below is what you can expect.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 8- percent of those that are in the acute phase of hepatitis C will not experience any symptoms. In certain cases, people will experience symptoms not too long after being infected. Some of these symptoms include poor appetite, feelings of fatigue and fever. If you develop this condition soon after the infection, you may also experience pain your muscles, joints and stomach, nausea or vomiting, yellowing of the eyes and skin (also known as jaundice) and abnormalities in bowel movements and urine. These symptoms will typically take place around six to seven weeks post-exposure.
One aspect of this disease that makes it dangerous is that some may not experience symptoms weeks after they first got exposed. This can cause many people to not believe they are sick and delays in treatment can cause a worsening of the condition. For some, it could take 6 months to up to 10 years to discover any symptoms. This is because it usually takes years for liver damage to start to occur.
In order for this condition to be diagnosed, you will need to get a blood test. Once a doctor gets the result of the blood test, they may recommend a liver biopsy to determine if there is liver damage from a chronic version of hepatitis.
In the past, there used to be no treatment for Hepatitis C. However, medications have been approved to treat the disease in recent years. If you have any of the symptoms that were listed, or if you have a chronic infection that presents as asymptomatic, your doctor will refer you to a specialist in all likelihood.
Doctors are also able to monitor symptoms and manage blood tests to confirm whether or not the treatments were effective. One such medication that is used to treat it is Ribavirin, which works by stopping the virus from spreading and replicating. You may also be given direct-acting antivirals, which are a standard of care for this disease. Nucleotides, protease inhibitors, and other combination drugs are all apart of the treatment regimen.
Based on your symptoms, it can be difficult to tell whether or not you have the condition. However, it is always best to practice wise behaviors and practice other preventive measures to protect yourself from coming into contact with the virus.
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to practice safe sex if you are in an intimate relationship. You must never assume that your partner has been with someone else because sexual intercourse is one of the easiest ways to transmit a virus from one to the other. It is always better to protect yourself prior.
Also, if you plan on getting piercings or tattoos, it is vital to ensure that whatever employees are working on you are using sterile needles. Needle sharing is another easy way to contract this virus because of the possibility of coming into contact with infected blood. If you believe that you may have contracted the virus, you need to talk to your doctor as soon as possible in order to determine what the best course of treatment is. You will also be doing yourself a favor by preventing potential liver damage with immediate treatment.
The biggest complication of the hepatitis virus is liver failure. This means this organ has lost its ability to function and is a life-threatening condition that will require immediate medical attention. When this takes place as a result of cirrhosis, doctors may refer to is as end-stage liver disease. In certain cases, it can take up to years to reach this stage, but if someone does, their life is in major jeopardy.
That is why it is extremely important to have routine blood screenings and getting into contact with a medical professional as soon as possible. The longer the disease goes unnoticed, the higher the capacity it has to do serious harm.
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