Everything you need to know about Hepatitis C

Everything you need to know about Hepatitis C

About 100 million people worldwide have Hepatitis C, but many are unaware of disease and the damage it can cause.

Here’s what you should know about the virus.

What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection or virus that causes inflammation and liver disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs is the most common way to contract the virus.

“Hepatitis C is an infectious process that can lead to acute or chronic liver damage,” says Dr. Adebayo Bademosi, family medicine specialist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.

Who gets Hepatitis C?
Anyone can get the disease, but the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that people most likely to get the disease are those who:

  • Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
  • Are in contact with blood or infected needles at work
  • Have had more than one sex partner in the last six months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
  • Are on kidney dialysis
  • Are infected with HIV
  • Have injected illegal drugs
  • Have had tattoos or body piercings
  • Work or live in a prison
  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987

What are the symptoms?
Hepatitis C is known to be a “silent killer” because the symptoms can take between three months to 10 years to surface, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Some symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle soreness
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain or upset stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark-yellow urine
  • Light colored stools
  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)

Can you prevent Hepatitis C?
“You cannot prevent it because there is no vaccine for it, but you can prevent it in terms of reducing your risk of infection,” says Dr. Bademosi.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, although you can protect yourself against the disease by not sharing needles or other drug equipment. Other ways to avoid the infection are wearing gloves if you have to touch another person’s blood, not sharing toothbrushes or razors, making sure the needles are sterilized when getting tattoos and piercings, and using a condom during sex.

How do you treat it?
Chronic Hepatitis C is treated with medicine that can slow the disease from damaging the liver.

Treatment can last anywhere from 24 to 48 weeks. The medicine is watched closely by a doctor and requires regular blood tests.

If serious enough, a liver transplant could be necessary to avoid liver damage or cancer of the liver.

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About the Author

Carolyn Diana
Carolyn Diana

Carolyn Diana, intern at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, is a junior at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan who is currently majoring in journalism and spanish. Besides going to school, she is a server at 115 Bourbon Street restaurant and during her free time she likes to read, write for the school newspaper, and watching E! news. Some of her favorite things are Miley Cyrus, the Chicago Blackhawks, and deep dish pizza.