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Hepatitis C – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Hepatitis C 1

What is Hepatitis C?

Triggered by a harmful virus called HCV, Hepatitis C is a type of illness affecting the body’s liver. Induced by a single-stranded RNA virus, it is associated with the family of Flaviviridae. Hepatitis C spreads very quickly through bodily fluids, which explains the continuous expansion of Hepatitis C cases worldwide.

It is noted that there is approximately 3.3% of individuals have this disease globally. This percentage includes individuals that are either asymptomatic or symptomatic. Additionally, unlike Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, this disease has no vaccine available. All these reasons make Hepatitis C one of the most dangerous diseases in the world.

HCV Genotypes:

  • Genotype 1 – Affecting about 70-80% of individuals living in Europe and North America
  • Genotype 2 – Affecting about 10-20% of individuals in West Africa
  • Genotype 3 & 4 – Affecting about 80% of individuals living in impoverished countries (mostly in Africa)
  • Genotype 5 & 6 – Prevalent in most parts of Asia and South Africa
  • Genotype 7 – Prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Signs and Symptoms

While dealing with the disease Hepatitis C, it is also necessary to know the levels of infection.

Chronic Type of Infection:

As mentioned, people can be asymptomatic after initial contact with the HCV virus. Its symptoms may not appear until 6 months after acquiring the disease. Once left untreated, the disease could advance to a more serious health concern. However, other people may also show an early warning of HCV. These include:

  • Body pain or fatigue
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Dark-coloured urine or stool
  • Mild fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite

The LFT (liver function test) can confirm if someone has already contracted the HCV virus. Since the mentioned symptoms are not only specific to HCV, we must conduct this test to arrive at a concrete diagnosis.

Symptoms pertaining to untreated HCV infection:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Jaundice
  • Ascites
  • The appearance of varicose veins
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Cancer symptoms

An acute type of infection:

The symptoms classified under the acute stage of infection are quite similar to HCV’s early phase. These symptoms are:

  • Body pain
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Dark-coloured urine or stool
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

During this stage, there is a possibility of experiencing liver failure. With this, a series of tests need to be done to avoid severe complications. It is also interesting to note that females recover faster from this stage than males. Since females have a better prognosis, males often need more medications to overcome the disease.

Systemic type of infection:

Apart from the liver, HCV can affect small or big organs and may associate itself with disorders that are autoimmune. Some of these autoimmune diseases are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diseases of the nervous system
  • Oral lesions
  • Cancer in the pancreas

 

For individuals who have HIV, there is a greater chance of acquiring HCV. It occurs when someone with the infection engages in unsafe sex with someone who is negative for the illness. Other triggering factors of HCV are:

  • Mother and child transmission
  • Shared items (razors or toothbrushes)
  • Using contaminated equipment

Treatment for the disease – Hepatitis C

Although there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C, there are medications available to ease the hostile effects of the virus. For example, they can diminish the inflammation and pain triggered by the virus. In most cases, doctors would recommend ARV drugs to keep the disease under check.

Apart from medication, a patient must also focus on lifestyle adjustments. These significant transitions include quitting smoking and avoiding drinking too much alcohol. Doctors will also recommend giving up all other habits that are bad for the liver.

Some common drugs used for Hepatitis C are:

  1. Daklinza (Daclatasvir)
  2. Epclusa (Sofosbuvir)
  3. Harvoni (Ledipasvir/Sofosbuvir)
  4. Mavyret (Glecaprevir)
  5. Olysio (Simeprevir)
  6. Sovaldi (Sofosbuvir)
  7. Vosevi
  8. Zepatier (Elbasvir)

These drugs can be used in combination with other ARVs. The dosage requirement will depend on someone’s medical history and response to the drugs. All the mentioned ARVs also mirror the genotypes to ensure that the treatment becomes successful and efficient.

In cases where the liver has been critically damaged, a transplant is necessary. However, one must also be aware that this medical process does not ensure final treatment for Hepatitis C, and the infection can still happen even if a successful liver transplant took place.

This explains why the continuous intake of the prescribed ARV is necessary. After surgery, a patient is still required to take his/her medication continuously to ensure that the treatment becomes effective. Also, sticking to the dosage will help the treatment to become successful.

Takeaway

It may take a few more years to produce a vaccine or a permanent cure for the disease. Additionally, studies, as well as clinical trials are in work to produce immunity against HCV. In the meantime, individuals living with the disease must live a healthy and better lifestyle so that the infection does not affect them. This includes eating only nutritious meals and avoiding harmful foods and substances. Other than this, constant consumption of antiretroviral drugs is key to preventing complications that can severely damage our health. Note that hepatitis C can damage our immune system, so ensure that you take care of it properly.

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