Papafragkakis
Charilaos Papafragkakis, MD
Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is the leading cause of chronic liver disease. It may take over 20 years after infection with the virus to cause permanent damage to the liver.

At risk for hepatitis C disease are

  • Those who share needles
  • Those who received a blood transfusion before 1987
  • Recipients of transplanted organs before July 1992
  • Patients on hemodialysis
  • People with HIV infection
  • Infants born of mothers with hepatitis C
  • Those who have unprotected sexual intercourse with a hepatitis C partner.

Prevention

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C

  • Do not use illegal drugs. If you are using, never share syringes or needles or other materials used for drug use
  • Do not share personal items that may be contaminated with blood, such as toothbrushes, razor blades, nail clippers, scissors, etc.
  • Avoid contact with the blood of your partner's period
  • Cover open skin sores
  • If you put body earrings or tattoos, make sure the tools are sterilized
  • People infected with hepatitis C should not give blood, other tissue or semen
  • Practice safe sex with a condom.

Symptoms

Most people have no symptoms. If they have, the symptoms are generally unclear and may include:

  • Reduced energy and appetite
  • Nausea or abdominal pain
  • Yellowish skin and eyes
  • Tea-colored urine
  • Change in fecal color (like clay)

If an infection is suspected, a special blood test will show if you are infected.

Treatment

Previously, hepatitis C was treated with interferon and ribavirin, with several side effects. Newer drugs are administered orally, combined with a short duration of treatment and over 90% cure rate.

Life with hepatitis C

It is important to learn to live with the disease. Treatment is given after medical assessment by a gastroenterologist or hepatolgist. Many people enjoy a normal life without ever becoming seriously ill. If you are a carrier, follow these steps:

  • Do regular blood tests for liver function
  • Tell your doctor about any new symptoms
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Ask your doctor before taking any medicine because many are harmful to the liver
  • Avoid stress and eat healthy
  • Do not give blood

Some patients will progress to chronic liver disease. If the disease is too advanced and the liver damage irreversible, then liver transplantation may be needed.

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