Hepatitis C is a viral disease caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV), which affects the liver. It is one of the most common chronic liver diseases, that is transmitted through blood-to-blood contacts. Most often infection is picked up while blood transfusion, intravenous drug use, or when medical equipment is sterilized poorly. The transmission of HCD during a sexual intercourse is controversial. It is believed, that there is a risk only in case of trauma during the intercourse, and if a person has multiple partners. HCV is not transmitted through ordinary contacts, like hugging, hand shaking or kissing.
HCV may be provoked by certain medical conditions, like alcohol abuse, neurological disorder, and autoimmune diseases. This virus affects only people and chimpanzees, so it cannot be picked up from the animals.
What is acute and chronic HCV infection?
In 15% of cases HCV causes acute symptoms, and about 80% develop chronic infection. Acute infection is asymptomatic or characterized by mild symptoms, such as inappetence, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness and pain, and weight loss. These cases are not associated with jaundice and may even resolve without treatment, especially in young people.
Chronic infection is more severe and although it is often asymptomatic at the early stages, it causes different liver injuries, like scarring or cirrhosis, and liver cancer. These conditions may be developing for several years.
How can hepatitis C be cured?
Hepatitis C may be revealed by different tests, the most common of which is antibodies to HCV. Although HCV can be cured, the treatment is rather complicated, long-lasting, expensive and often causes side-effects. Persistent infection is treated in 60-80 % of cases. The most common therapy includes combination of antiviral medications: pegylated interferon alpha, or peginterferon, and ribavirin. Peginterferon is injected and ribavirin is taken orally. Medicines are taken during 24-48 weeks, depending on the type of virus and on the response of the organism. Some another medicines may be used to relieve symptoms like dehydration or vomiting.
The chances of recovering depend on the stage of disease at the moment of therapy start. The problem is that people often get know about their disease at its chronicle stage, when they start experiencing the symptoms of liver damage.
In severe cases, when cirrhosis or liver cancer develops, a liver transplant is often required, which involves replacement of the damaged liver with a healthy one. However HCV may recur after transplantation.
Patients diagnosed with hepatitis C should avoid alcohol and some medications that are toxic to the liver. They are also recommended to take vaccines against other forms of hepatitis.
How can hepatitis C be prevented?
There is no vaccine against hepatitis C. It is possible to prevent the disease by avoiding its causes. Thus, any procedure that may cause transmission of hepatitis C, including transfusion of blood and organ transplantation, should be performed only after HCV screening. Avoid unreliable piercing and tattoo salons, manicure and pedicure salons, as if the equipment is not properly sterilized, the infection may be picked up in these places. It is also possible to slow down the process of disease development by avoiding alcohol and toxic medications.
These articles can be used for informational purposes only. To get an accurate diagnosis consult your doctor!
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