What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that causes a liver infection that can lead to serious liver damage if not treated. This virus spreads through infected blood. Hepatitis C infection is caused by the Hep C virus (HCV). It spreads when blood that has been infected enters the bloodstream of a person who is not infected. There are about 2.4 million people in the U.S that have the virus but do not even know that they have it since the symptoms are not a lot. Hepatitis C has many stages. The first stage can last 14-80 days. It is when a person is first exposed to the virus. Acute Hep C is short term and lasts for the first 6 months after the virus enters the bloodstream. After 6 months, some people’s systems can get rid of the virus. The symptoms come for 1-3 months after being exposed and last 2 weeks to 3 months. Chronic hepatitis C is more common and lasts longer than 6 months. There is no vaccine to prevent this virus but some precautions to take to prevent it, such as not sharing needles.
Why is it important to know?
It is important to know about Hep C because when it continues for years, it can lead to liver cancer, liver disease, cirrhosis, and death. Also important to know so you can take preventative measures. Risks are increased if you have been exposed to blood, have gotten a piercing or tattoo in an unsanitary environment, and were born between 1945 and 1965.
What are the symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of Hep C includes bleeding and bruising easily, fatigue, dark colored urine, jaundice (yellow coloring of eyes), decrease hunger, joint pain, nausea/vomiting, clay colored feces, itchy skin, weight loss, spider like blood vessels on skin, and fluid buildup in the stomach. Symptoms usually last for up to 2 to 12 weeks. If Hep C is untreated it can lead to liver cancer and even death.
Epclusa® (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir): usually taken for 12 weeks. Patients take one tablet by mouth once a day.
Mavyret® (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir): usually taken for 8 weeks. Patients take 3 tablets by mouth once a day. It needs to be taken with food.
Vosevi® (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir): used when a patient has already been treated for hepatitis C. Patients take one tablet by mouth once a day.
Recombinant interferon-alfa (IFNa) injections: This medication was used to treat hepatitis C. It is NOT used anymore because it only worked 50% of the time and caused bad side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
1.How serious is Hepatitis C?
It is very serious and can lead to liver cancer and even death if left untreated.
2.How is this virus spread?
It can be spread through contact of blood from an infected person, unsterile tattoo and piercing needles, razors, sex with infected person, and injecting drugs.
3.Who should get tested for it?
Everyone ages 18 and older, if pregnant, if they have HIV, abnormal liver tests, was born to a mother with hep C, are currently injecting drugs, and are on dialysis.
4.How can people with hep C protect their liver?
People should get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B because those can prevent Hep C from getting worse. Also, avoid alcohol to prevent further liver damage and ask your doctor before taking any prescription or over the counter medications.
Hepatitis C – what is hep C? symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment [Internet]. WebMD. WebMD; [cited 2022Nov10]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/digestive-diseases-hepatitis-c
Hepatitis C [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2021 [cited 2022Nov10]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/symptoms-causes/syc-20354278