Why Hepatitis C is Dangerous and How to Recognize it?

Why Hepatitis C is Dangerous and How to Recognize it?

Hepatitis C is one of the most insidious diseases. Often Hepatitis does not manifest itself for many years and even decades. And when it makes itself felt, it is already too late.

According to WHO, more than 70 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. Up to 400 thousand dies from this infection and related complications annually.

What is hepatitis C and why is it dangerous?

Hepatitis C is called liver inflammation caused by one of the hepatitis infections — type C virus. There are other types, but they are not as dangerous as this one.

In most cases, the C-virus is transmitted through the blood. Moreover, the infection can occur quite mundane. For example, when you are getting a manicure, piercing, or a fashionable tattoo with poorly sterilized instruments after a previous client.

Nothing special happens after such manipulations. The virus captures the liver almost imperceptibly. Because of this, approximately half of people with chronic hepatitis C are not even aware of this. Meanwhile, the disease is progressing.

Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver cancer.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in people with chronic hepatitis C:
  • chronic liver dysfunction will develop, the risk of this is 60–70%;
  • there will be cirrhosis of the liver (usually this occurs 20-30 years after infection), the risk is 10-20%;
  • liver failure will develop, the risk is 3–6%;
  • liver cancer will be detected, the risk is 1–5%.

Approximately 15–25% of cases are cured by themselves. Sometimes without even knowing that they were infected at all. Doctors call this phenomenon spontaneous viral clearance and do not yet fully understand its causes.

However, which group you will fall into — those who suddenly cured, or those who have earned cirrhosis, or even worse, cannot be predicted. Therefore, it is better not to joke with hepatitis C.

How to recognize hepatitis C?

The disease has two phases: acute and chronic. The first begins 1-6 months after infection and lasts from 2 to 12 weeks. And here the insidiousness of the virus makes itself felt.

In most (up to 80% of infected), the acute phase is almost asymptomatic.

More precisely, there may be signs. But they often resemble the usual malaise, which is easy to confuse with cold or seasonal fatigue.

How to recognize the acute phase of hepatitis C?
Here are the most common symptoms:
  • Heaviness in the stomach. Usually on the right side, under the ribs.
  • Yellow or light feces.
  • The urine is dark in color.
  • Fatigue.
  • Regular nausea. Sometimes before vomiting.
  • Decreased appetite. Often the reason for this is a feeling of fullness of the stomach even after a small portion.
  • Pain in the muscles and joints. As during the flu.
  • Temperature rise. Sometimes insignificant, to subfebrile level.
  • Slight yellowing of the skin and eye proteins.

These symptoms do not necessarily appear together. In addition, they can last literally a few days. If this time coincides with the period of another disease — the same ARI, signs of hepatitis C will generally go unnoticed. Then the acute phase will end and the next — the chronic phase — will begin.

How to recognize the chronic phase of hepatitis C?

It lasts for years and even decades until liver damage becomes so widespread that it will clearly manifest itself. Recognizing hepatitis C at this stage is even more difficult than till acute. But still, if you are attentive to yourself, it is possible.

In addition to the above symptoms, these symptoms may appear:
  • Easily bruising. Blood coagulation factors (the so-called substances that ensure this property of it) are produced in the liver. If it functions abnormally, coagulation worsens.
  • Bleeding. The smallest scratches can ooze for a long time. The reason is the same as above.
  • Itching and rash of unknown origin. Any part of the body may be affected, but the back, chest, shoulders, and arms are more often affected.
  • Frequent swelling of the legs.
  • Unreasonable weight loss.
  • Spider angiomas. This is the name of the clusters of blood vessels that appear under the skin, diverging from one point like a cobweb.

If you notice at least two or three of these symptoms, this is a clear signal — you need to check.

What to do if you suspect hepatitis C

First, contact your internist. He will listen to your complaints and, if he decides that they are motivated, will give direction to a number of studies. Most likely, they will include a blood test — the so-called «liver tests» and for antibodies to hepatitis viruses, as well as Sonography of the abdominal organs.

If your suspicions are confirmed, the therapist will send you to an infectious disease specialist or hepatologist — specialists who are directly involved in the treatment of hepatitis.

The good news: hepatitis C is treatable.

90% of patients recover after a course of drugs that takes only a few months.

But note: only a doctor can prescribe such therapy. The fact is that the hepatitis C virus has several genotypes, each of which requires an individual selection of medications.

And another important point: you need to have time to start treatment before the damage to the liver becomes irreversible.

Who needs to be tested for hepatitis C

You are at high risk if:

  • work in a medical facility in direct contact with other people's blood and needles;
  • have a diverse sex life — you change partners, are fond of fisting (and at the same time your partner has cuticle damage — the skin around the nails) or prefer unprotected anal sex;
  • you have piercings or tattoos, and you don’t know for sure whether the master’s instruments were sterile or disposable;
  • do manicures or pedicures in salons with dubious hygiene;
  • you had a blood transfusion;
  • you are on dialysis (it is a possible infection from equipment that was not properly sterilized or, being disposable, was reused);
  • have a spouse or sexual partner with hepatitis C;
  • Your mother has hepatitis C;
  • born in the period from 1945 to 1965 — this generation has the highest frequency of diseases with this type of hepatitis (at least according to US statistics);
  • were in prison;
  • use drugs with needles or sniff cocaine and share it with other inhalants.

If you recognize yourself in one of the items on this list, be sure to get tested for hepatitis C at least once. Doctors, patients on dialysis, lovers of piercings, tattoos, and manicures, it is advisable to repeat this procedure at least once a year. However, not only to them: the doctor will recommend the frequency of checks, based on your habits, profession, and lifestyle.

How not to get hepatitis C

The main route of transmission of hepatitis C is with the blood of an infected person. Sometimes the virus can enter the body through sexual contact, as well as from mother to child, but such cases are less common.

Hepatitis C is not transmitted:
  • through food, water, breast milk;
  • through social contacts, hugs, kisses, the use of common utensils;
  • mosquitoes and other insects.
To reduce the risk of infection, it is important to avoid contact with other people's blood:
  • Be careful when working with syringes and biomaterials of other people. Use medical gloves.
  • Try not to get scratched in public places. For example, it is dangerous to damage the skin on the handrail in public transport — because a person infected with hepatitis C could have been scratched there before you.
  • Use condoms and lubricants to avoid any contact with blood during sex.
  • Do not share your toothbrush, razor, or nail clippers with other people.
  • If you are doing manicure, tattoo, piercing, be sure to check that the master uses a disposable instrument or carefully sterilizes a reusable one.
  • Do not experiment with drugs.
And again, hepatitis C is a treatable disease. But be careful and prudent.