What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection that targets the liver. The term “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver; there are several strains of hepatitis that infect the liver. Generally considered one of the most serious of the hepatitis virus, Hepatitis C is a contagious infection that leads to long-term damage. Although Hepatitis C is a serious infection, many infected individuals do not experience symptoms until liver damage is evident in medical testing—often years or even decades later.
How is Hepatitis C contracted?
Hepatitis C is passed through blood contaminated with the HCV (hepatitis C virus). Any time contaminated blood is present, it is possible to pass Hepatitis C to others.
There are several methods of Hepatitis C transmission:
- The most common method of transmission is through the use of needles during intravenous drug use. The sharing of needles during drug use presents the highest risk of passing Hepatitis C.
- Individuals that received blood transmission before 1992 are also at risk for Hepatitis C. Before 1992, blood tests did not properly identify the virus making it possible to contract Hepatitis C through blood transfusions or organ transplants.
- Babies born to Hepatitis C mothers are also at risk for Hepatitis C infections, although the numbers are small.
- It is possible to contract Hepatitis C through intercourse with an infective course; however, passing Hepatitis C sexually is rare.
- Individuals who received a tattoo or piercing with either unsterile equipment or in an unclean environment may have been exposed to Hepatitis C.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
The symptoms of Hepatitis C can range from a short-term acute infection to chronic Hepatitis C that causes severe damage to the liver. As stated before, many infected individuals experience little or no immediate symptoms. During its earliest stages it is unlikely for signs to become apparent; however, mild symptoms can be present:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Tenderness in the area of the liver
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of appetite
Acute infection is a short-term illness that occurs within six months after exposure. There are additional symptoms of an acute infection, which may include the following signs:
- Abdominal Pain
- Dark Urine
- Clay-colored bowel
In most cases, acute infection will lead to chronic Hepatitis C.
Individuals who have prolonged symptoms or worry they have been exposed to Hepatitis C are encouraged to consult their doctor.
What are the long-term complications of Hepatitis C?
Because the infection can last for many years, serious complications can occur for individuals infected with Hepatitis C.
Scarring of the liver tissue will occur after year of the Hepatitis C infection leading to cirrhosis. Scarring makes it increasingly difficult for your liver to perform its critical functions. A fraction of Hepatitis C positive patients may develop liver cancer. If the liver is severely damaged, the liver will no longer function and the patient will experience liver failure.
Learning how to prevent Hepatitis C exposure will greatly reduce your risk of infection.
Receiving proper care for Hepatitis C will greatly reduce an infected individual’s risk of complications.
Jean Brown Research is currently seeking individuals 18 years and older who suffer from Hepatitis C for a clinical study for an investigational medication to treat Hepatitis C. Participants must not have received any previous treatment for Hepatitis C virus infection.