Hepatitis A, B, C, D, what is this all about? What exactly is Hepatitis C? Many people are uneducated about this disease and may get them confused with the various types. Well simply put here are nine things you should know about Hepatitis C and then maybe you won’t be as confused.
- What exactly is Hepatitis C? Hepatitis in general is inflammation of the liver. So Hepatitis C is a strain of Hepatitis that can cause inflammation and even damage to the liver.
- It’s a virus. Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). The way a virus works is by using a host cell to survive. A virus is not a self-sufficient organism; in this case, it must reside in a human cell to grow and replicate. When a person is infected with Hepatitis C the virus travels through the person’s blood stream to their liver and then begins to invade their liver cells.
- It can be spread to others. Since Hepatitis C is a virus it can be transmitted to others by coming in contact with the blood of someone who has Hepatitis C. The contaminated blood must enter your body through a cut in your skin or through contacting your eyes or mouth.
- Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sex. If you have unprotected sex with a person contaminated with Hepatitis C, you then can be at risk for acquiring the virus.
- Don’t share needles. The most common way Hepatitis C is transmitted is through sharing needles. This is common among drug users. But a person is also at risk if they get a tattoo at a shop that did not properly disinfect their needles.
- Health care workers are also at risk. Since health care workers are frequently exposed to contaminated blood they have to be extra careful to not let it come in contact with their skin or they will run the risk of getting the disease.
- It’s asymptomatic. This means there are no real symptoms for Hepatitis C. A person could potentially have the disease for years before they realize they have it and all the while the virus was working at slowly destroying their liver. Sometimes by the time a person realizes they have Hepatitis C most of the damage has already been done. Sometimes symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), muscle pain, or fever do occur.
- It can be tested. There are tests that can check a person’s blood for the Hepatitis C virus. If a person thinks they may have been in contact with contaminated blood they should consider seeing their Doctor to ask for a blood test. If caught early enough, Doctors can prescribe a series of medications that will decrease their chance of long term damage to their liver.
- Sometimes it’s a silent killer. Since there are no real prominent signs for Hepatitis C it is possible that once a person realizes they are infected with the virus there has already been significant scarring to the liver, known as cirrhosis. This is often referred to as the chronic form of Hepatitis C. There are a series of medications that can be prescribed and will allow for a full life. However, if the damage is too severe the only other option may be a liver transplant. Although it is not common for a person to die from Hepatitis C, it certainly is possible if the damage is too severe.
Hepatitis C is certainly not one of the worst diseases a person can contract. But the severity of it greatly depends on how long a person goes without knowing they have it and not having the opportunity to be treated. It is important for people to pay attention to the mild symptoms that may occur with Hepatitis C and if they are experiencing them to go see a doctor. Overall this disease is something that is very preventable by taking precautions around needles and being careful not to come in contact with contaminated blood. But it is certainly not something to be taken lightly.