Hepatitis C refers to a viral infection of the liver that may result in liver damage, cirrhosis and even liver failure. Unfortunately, most of the people with this infection remain unaware of the same until the liver is damaged to certain extent. Hepatitis C virus is a type of virus that causes liver infection and is considered to be the most dangerous and serious among the rest. The disease may remain chronic and mild in some people who are able to carry on with normal life without much difficulty. But in some cases, the condition may become very serious requiring hospitalization.
Hepatitis C spreads from one person to another through contaminated blood.
Some of the common causes of the spread include:
- Sharing needles that are infected with the virus
- Blood transfusion with contaminated blood
- Organ transplant from an infected donor
- Tattoo or piercing using instrument that contains infected blood
In most cases, infection by hepatitis C virus may not produce any symptoms and remain unnoticed.
During the early stages of infection the common symptoms, if present, are:
- Mild, persistent fever
- Lack of appetite
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Tenderness in the liver
- Pain in the abdomen
- Change in the color of urine
As the disease progresses, liver cirrhosis may be initiated which is characterized by:
- Inflammation of the abdomen and legs
- Unexpected loss of weight
- Muscle shrinking
- Bleeding in the intestine
- Encephalopathy – This is caused by the damage to the nervous system resulting in confusion and memory problems.
- Sleep disturbance
- Vomiting with traces of blood in the vomit
- High grade fever
- Severe pain
- Reddishness in the palm – this is caused by the expansion of the small blood vessels in the hand and looks like rashes.
- Spider-like blood vessels – small blood vessels in the chest and face may cluster together and give spider-like appearances.
If the symptoms of hepatitis infection are present, it requires medical attention.
Treatment options for hepatitis C infection depends on factors like the extent of damage to liver, viral load in the body, and also the health condition of the person. Medications should be taken after discussing it with a gastroenterologist.