Symptoms and Diagnosis of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C also known as the chronic liver disease is caused by hepatitis C virus. It is the most serious type of viruses among A, B, and C. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which is caused by infection, medication or accumulation of toxins in the body. According to a recent survey conducted, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has affected around 3.5 million people in the country. It is also the cause of 12,000 deaths in a year across the country.

Types of hepatitis C
Hepatitis C has mostly two main discourses. These are acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis C. The symptoms of acute hepatitis C are more short-termed ranging from six months up to a year. On the other hand, symptoms of chronic hepatitis C can last a lifetime. Acute hepatitis if left untreated, leads to chronic hepatitis in most of the cases.

The hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus and occurs as the result of transdermal transmission of the hepatitis C virus through infected blood. It is a contagious disease and the virus can easily enter into the bloodstream of another person through the skin.

Transmission

  • It is transmitted by injecting drug through sharing of infected injection.
  • It can also be transmitted through blood and its transfusions.
  • Through the reuse of unsterilized syringes, injections, and other medical equipment.
  • Through dialysis or any kind of organ transplant.
  • Through Intranasal use of drug( snorting)
  • Through any kind of body piercing or injecting ink into a person’s skin also known as tattooing.
  • Through sexual contact.
  • From an infected mother to her baby.
  • Not maintaining personal hygiene and sharing of personal things such as garments, razors, toothbrushes and other items

Hepatitis C is not transmitted through breast milk unless the skin of the nipple is percutaneous. It is also not spread through sharing of food or water of the infected person. It is also not transmitted through being in close proximity to the infected person or hugging or kissing them.

Symptoms of hepatitis C
In most of the cases, people infected by hepatitis C virus do not experience any kind of symptoms for a long time. Hepatitis C is also referred to as silent killer as the person may not know about it for years. Its symptoms can be mild or severe pertaining to a person’s infection. Some common symptoms of hepatitis C include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal bowel movements
  • Dark color Urine
  • Pale yellow eyes and skin
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Minor skin rash

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), the symptoms of acute hepatitis C can be seen as early as two weeks or approximately six or seven weeks after exposure to the virus. In some people, no signs or symptoms are seen for years after contracting the disease. This virus leads to damaging of liver and death.

Most people with chronic hepatitis C experience symptoms in the advanced stages of the disease. It can also be detected while donating blood or in a routine blood test.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C may include:

  • Pain in the area of the liver
  • Flu
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue

In some cases, chronic hepatitis may lead to kidney damage which is also known as cryoglobulinemia.

Diagnosis
If a person suspects contracting hepatitis C and is showing symptoms then he or she can confirm it by a simple blood test. It is usually diagnosed using antibody test and the PCR test.

The antibody test
The antibody test as the name suggests determines the exposure to hepatitis virus in the patients. It is determined by testing the presence of antibodies against the virus. The results of these tests are usually delayed as it takes time for the antibodies to be made in the body. A negative result with prevailing symptom shows that you may have been exposed to the virus. Whereas a positive test indicates that you have been infected earlier at some point in time. It is a false type of test and usually, a second blood test is recommended for confirmation of hepatitis C virus in the body.

The PCR test
The PCR blood test is done to determine whether the virus is still present in the body or not. It detects whether it still exists in the body or is being reproduced inside your body. A positive test here is a bad sign and it means that the virus is still present in the body due to lack of antibodies or fighting germ cells. This test also shows whether the infection is at a chronic stage or not. The chronic stage here is referred to as a long-term stage which leads to liver damage or cirrhosis.

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