Hepatitis C or HVC is a serious form of hepatitis that is caused by the hepatitis C virus and causes the liver to become inflamed. Most individuals who acquire HVC will experience no symptoms from their infection and will not be diagnosed until it has caused damage to the liver which then causes the symptoms that lead them to seek medical treatment.
While there is no cure for hepatitis C, some individuals may not need treatment and will only be monitored for any changes that may affect the liver. However, in some more severe cases when HVC is not treated, this can cause cirrhosis to occur in the liver and possibly liver failure.
Causes and Symptoms of Hepatitis C
An individual can become infected with the hepatitis C virus when they come into contact with the blood of another individual who has been infected. Prior to the year of 1992, this was possible when an individual received an organ transplant or blood transfusion due to the fact that screening tests for this virus were inadequate, however, now there are better screening tests in place to stop the potential of unknowingly becoming infected with HVC.
The highest risk factors for becoming infected with HVC virus include those individuals who are in the health care industry that are exposed to human blood and needles, and those individuals who use illicit drugs and participate in the sharing of needles among other drug users.
There are typically no symptoms when an individual first becomes infected with HVC and they may not experience any symptoms at all unless the virus begins to damage the liver. If individuals do have symptoms of hepatitis C, they may be mild and have the characteristics of the flu and may include loss of appetite, nausea, fever, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and a tenderness or soreness in the area where the liver is located in the body. If an individual has had HVC for a long period of time, other symptoms will occur that are caused by the virus causing damage to the liver.
Treatment and Prevention of Hepatitis C
While treatment is not always necessary for some individuals who have HVC, others who have more serious and chronic hepatitis C infection will be placed on antiviral medications in an attempt to rid the body of this virus.
Blood tests will be done after all of this medication has been taken and if the virus is still present, more antiviral medications may be prescribed for a second attempt, however, these medications have the potential for the development of serious side effects and a patient may have to discontinue taking them or stop altogether.
In more serious cases where the infection has caused serious and permanent damage to the liver, a liver transplant may be recommended, however, this is not a cure for HVC and the patient must continue taking antiviral medications as HVC has a tendency to reoccur even after a liver transplant.
In order to prevent HVC, it is essential that you protect yourself if you use illicit drugs by getting help for your addiction or not sharing any drug paraphernalia or needles with other users.
You should also be cautious when having any body piercing or tattooing done and only use a professional or reputable place ensuring that their equipment is clean and that the needles they use are sterile. Unsafe sex is also a high risk factor in becoming infected with hepatitis C, therefore, you should use caution by always using protection and avoiding unknown or multiple sexual partners.