The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment for Hepatitis C

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By Topic Insight Staff

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that impacts the liver and leads to inflammation and swelling. Given how the symptoms of hepatitis C can often be misdiagnosed, it’s helpful to research this information online before consulting a doctor.

One of the scariest things about the virus (which is also known as HCV) is that nearly half of the individuals who are infected do not realize it. Left untreated, this viral infection gradually causes damage to liver tissues.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the HCV, which can lead to either a mild illness lasting a few weeks or a severe, long-term condition, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 The infection is classified as either “acute,” meaning a new infection, or “chronic,” meaning a long-term infection.

How is Hepatitis C Spread?

HCV is transmitted through blood. It can spread through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids which leads to contamination in your bloodstream, explains WebMD.2

Exposure can occur from sharing needles, during intercourse (particularly with multiple partners or if one partner has HIV or another sexually transmitted disease), a prick from an infected needle, an infected mother during birth, sharing personal hygiene items (i.e. toothbrush or razor blades), or getting a tattoo or piercing with improperly sterilized equipment.

Who Should Get Tested for Hepatitis C

The CDC recommends that all adults 18 and older get tested at least once in their lifetime, even those without symptoms or known liver disease. Also, anyone who is pregnant (tested during each pregnancy), people who currently inject drugs (get tested regularly) or have injected drugs at any time in their past.

Treatment: Antiviral Medications

Hepatitis C can be treated with various medications. The medication prescribed will vary based on the strain of virus that is present, explains the Cleveland Clinic.

The most common treatment is antivirals (such as Mavyret), however Healthline adds that Ribovirin may be prescribed if previous treatments were unsuccessful. Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are another type of medication that can eliminate the HCV from your body and prevent liver damage, add the source.

Treatment: Liver Transplantation

In cases of advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis, merely treating the underlying hepatitis C infection may not suffice. At this stage, when liver failure is imminent, the Cleveland Clinic says the only possible treatment is a liver transplant.

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