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Hepatitis C – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What is Hepatitis C?

Triggered to happen by a harmful virus called HCV, Hepatitis C has been generally specified as a type of illness affecting the body’s liver. Induced by a single-stranded RNA virus, it is associated alongside the family of Flaviviridae. Hepatitis C has been recognized as a very harmful infection due to the fact that it is spread quickly by means of bodily fluids. This reason alone explains the continuous expansion of cases of the stated illness worldwide.

It is noted that there is approximately 3.3% of individuals comprising the global community are being defiled by the said disease. This percentage includes individuals that are either asymptomatic or symptomatic. Additionally, even if Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B have already existing vaccines, there isn’t one yet for Hepatitis C.

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

In dealing with the disease Hepatitis C, it is also necessary to know the levels of infection. These are as follows:

Chronic Type of Infection:

As mentioned, people can be asymptomatic after the initial infection of HCV. Its symptoms may not appear until 6 months of 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

To know if someone has already been associated with HCV, the LFT (liver function test) is performed. Since the mentioned symptoms are not only specified to HCV, this test must be conducted 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. Additionally, females are expected to recover faster than males. Since females have a better prognosis, males often need more medications to overcome the disease.

Systemic type of infection:

Other than having the first two mentioned infections, HCV can still infect the whole-body organ or system. This means that it is capable of affecting 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

Cryptogenic occult type of infection:

This type of infection describes the existing amount of the virus but less because of medicine consumption. To know if someone still has the virus, tests involving the antibodies must be done to detect viral presence inside the body. The symptoms corresponding to this infection are not hostile, which means that they are manageable.

Causes

As pre-defined, HCV brought about the illness to emerge. One of the natural ways for it to spread is by blood. In some countries, the illness is spread by using contaminated syringes. In another means of HCV transmission, irresponsible usage of medicinal processes is also a triggering factor.

For individuals who have HIV, there is a greater chance of acquiring HCV. It occurs when someone with the infection performs the unsafe sexual activity with someone who happens to be negative of the illness. Other triggering factors of HCV are as follows:

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

Treatment for the disease – Hepatitis C

The journey to producing a vaccine or immunity for the said illness is faced alongside the complexity of its features. However, there are medications that can be easily accessed to at least alleviate the hostile effects of the disease on the body. Aside from clearing all the elements of the illness inside the bodily systems, these medications are made to diminish the inflammation and pain triggered by the illnesses’ symptoms.

First of all, a change in the lifestyle of individuals experiencing disease must take place. These significant transitions include the avoidance of drinking too much alcohol and other habits that are considered harmful to the health, especially our liver. Secondly, right after diagnosis, an infected individual is expected to consume ARV drugs based on the severity of the infection.

These drugs are as follows:

  1. Daklinza (Daclatasvir)
  2. Epclusa (Sofosbuvir)
  3. Harvoni (Ledipasvir)
  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. This observes by replacing the harmed liver with a new one. However, one must also be aware that this medical process does not ensure final treatment for Hepatitis C. Liver transplant only diminish possible health complications triggered by liver damage. Infection is still likely to 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 good and strong vaccine or cure for the disease. Additionally, studies, as well as clinical trials are in works to produce immunity against HCV. In the meantime, individuals living with the disease must live a healthy and better lifestyle so that the infection cannot advance. This includes eating only nutritious meals and avoiding harmful foods that are not allowed for intake. Other than this, constant treatment associated with antiretroviral drugs is significant and must be done strictly to prevent acquiring more 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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