Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver. There are three types of hepatitis, but only B is considered an STD. This strain is not as easily transmitted, mostly through blood, IV drug use, and having sex with people who have also been infected with HIV.
Many previous cases of hepatitis C before 1991 came from a blood transfusion or organ transplants. There is mandatory testing in the United States for the virus in place, and these cases have all but disappeared. There have been cases where a health care worker has contracted hepatitis C from infected blood. But the most common route is from needles used for drug use or uncleaned tattoo needles.
Unlike Hepatitis B, there is no vaccine for this disease. But testing and preventative measures are reducing the number of cases. The bad news is that the vast majority of the people, once infected, never rid themselves of hepatitis C.
What Are The Symptoms?
Hepatitis C normally does not show any symptoms until there has been some liver damage. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- feeling tired
- joint pains and sore muscles
- belly pain
- itchy skin
- dark urine
- yellowing of the eyes and skin once the other symptoms have started to fade
Most people will not have symptoms, making it possible that someone may have the disease for 15 years or more before it is noticed.
Diagnosis And Treatments
Since most people find out by accident- it is noticed when giving blood or in a routine checkup later in life. The only way to determine if you have hepatitis C is a blood test. The first test will show if you have antibodies to the virus- a second test may then be done to determine if there is active virus. There are home test kits to see if the virus is in your blood: any positive results should be checked by a doctor.
If the virus is in your system, there will be a need to test your liver. This needs to be discussed with your doctor before they do it.
A combination of drugs and lifestyle changes can be options for treating hepatitis C, depending on the amount of liver damage and exactly what version of the virus you have. Many strains are becoming resistant to the drugs we currently use to treat them. And the medications that you use in the future may be affected- and your ability to drink alcohol will be limited forever.
What If I Don't Get Treated?
Hepatitis C can lead, like all of the hepatitis strains into cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, and general liver failure. Most people who are infected with this disease can live long lives, but the initial liver damage cannot be undone.
In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C can pass the disease to her children during birth