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.
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.
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.
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.