Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and can result in significant liver damage. The virus, known as HCV, spreads through contaminated blood. In the past, treatment for hepatitis C involved weekly injections and oral medications that were often unsuitable for individuals with other health issues or caused undesirable side effects. However, there have been significant advancements in treatment options. Nowadays, chronic hepatitis C is typically curable using oral medications taken daily for a period of two to six months.
Unfortunately, approximately half of the people infected with HCV are unaware of their condition due to the absence of noticeable symptoms, which can take several decades to manifest. This prolonged period of asymptomatic infection contributes to chronic inflammation that progressively harms the liver. Consequently, hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver failure and liver transplantation in the United States.
It is crucial to raise awareness about hepatitis C and promote regular screenings to identify infected individuals earlier and provide them with appropriate medical care to prevent the development of severe liver complications.
Hepatitis C infection goes through different stages:
The progression of cirrhosis is slow and can take several decades. Factors such as alcohol consumption and overall liver health can affect the rate of progression. Eventually, the accumulation of scar tissue impairs the liver’s normal functioning. About 25% of individuals with chronic hepatitis C infection may develop cirrhosis after 20 years.
Chronic hepatitis C refers to a prolonged infection with the hepatitis C virus, characterized by its long-term presence in the body. During the initial stages, this condition often remains asymptomatic for several years, earning its reputation as a “silent” infection. However, over time, the virus can progressively harm the liver, leading to the development of signs and symptoms associated with liver disease:
Chronic hepatitis C infections typically originate from an initial acute phase. However, the acute stage of hepatitis C often goes unnoticed since it rarely manifests noticeable symptoms. In cases where symptoms do occur, they may include jaundice, fatigue, nausea, fever, and muscle aches. These acute symptoms usually appear within one to three months after exposure to the virus and can persist for a duration of two weeks to three months.
Not all cases of acute hepatitis C progress to a chronic state. Some individuals experience spontaneous viral clearance, where their bodies successfully eliminate the HCV infection after the acute phase. Studies examining people diagnosed with acute HCV have reported varying rates of spontaneous viral clearance, ranging from 15% to 25%. Additionally, antiviral therapy has shown to be effective in treating acute hepatitis C infections.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is primarily transmitted through blood contact. It spreads when the infected person’s blood enters the body of an uninfected individual. In the United States, the most prevalent mode of transmission is through the sharing of needles for intravenous drug use. However, there are various accidental scenarios where one might unintentionally come into contact with another person’s blood.
You are more likely to contract hepatitis C if you:
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