Healthy Living

What Is Hepatitis C?

What Is Hepatitis C?

Key Takeaways

  • Hepatitis C is a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus.
  • Hepatitis C was previously treated using a combination of two medicines called interferon and ribavirin.
  • The most common transmission of the hepatitis C virus is through the sharing of needles used for injecting drugs. 

Hepatitis C is a disease caused by the hepatitis virus C. This disease particularly attacks the liver. In chronic cases, the affected person may not be aware of any signs or symptoms of the disease for years.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

People who have an acute hepatitis C may not experience any symptoms, except for mild flu-like symptoms, which will continue for two to six weeks. The symptoms of the disease can include the following:

Hepatitis

  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal tenderness 
  • mild fatigue
  • restless or easily irritated

If there is an infection in the liver due to hepatitis C, then the symptoms are:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • jaundice
  • fever up to 102°F

Causes of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C virus spreads from person-to-person through direct contact with an affected person’s blood. If anyone shares the same needles or syringes while taking any type of intravenous (IV) drugs, then there is a chance of getting infected by the hepatitis C virus. Nurses, laboratory technicians, doctors, and other healthcare workers are also at a high risk of getting the hepatitis C virus, as they continuously handle blood and other body fluids of people who have hepatitis C. 

The hepatitis C virus cannot be transmitted to other people through sneezing, coughing, shaking hands, hugging, kissing, sharing the same eating utensils, or drinking with the same glasses, swimming in a pool, using public toilets, or touching door knobs. People will likely be infected if the blood of the infected person, which contains the hepatitis virus, enters the body of healthy people. The most common transmission of the hepatitis C virus is through the sharing of needles used for injecting drugs. 

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the disease is done through blood tests. Most people who are infected with the virus develop the chronic type of hepatitis C, which further leads to the development of liver cancer and cirrhosis. 

Hepatitis C Treatment 

Currently, there is no cure for hepatitis C. However, it is notable that after taking an appropriate treatment for 6 to 10 months, 45 to 70 percent of people who have hepatitis C experience lesser symptoms. If you think that you have hepatitis C, avoid self-medication. You should consult with your doctor right away to have a confirmed diagnosis.

  • Antiviral treatment - is also a standard method to get rid of the infection. After checking the level of the hepatitis C virus by doing certain blood tests, your doctor will prescribe you a full course of medicine. You need to completely follow the treatment course, and if the virus still remains in your body, your doctor might add another course of medicine.
  • Healthy lifestyle and doing regular exercises - are good alternative treatments for hepatitis C. The affected person needs to avoid all types of alcohol as well as those medications that may increase the stress on the liver.

The Latest Treatment for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C was previously treated using a combination of two medicines called interferon and ribavirin. Both drugs do not target the virus, but rather boost the patient's immune system, making it stronger to fight the virus. For this reason, having a long-term treatment using these drugs does not guarantee any cure.

The new drugs that have been approved by the FDA in 2014 have revolutionized the treatment of the disease. The new pills not only cure this long-term infection in a short span but also made the process to be injection-free. These drugs are given to remove all traces of the hepatitis C virus.

  • Daklinza (daclatasvir): this medicine is taken once a day with sofosbuvir for type 3 hepatitis C virus. This drug has reduced the shot for 1 in 10 infected persons, but it has a few side effects such as headaches, tiredness, and sometimes affect the heart rate. 
  • Zepatier (elbasvir and grazoprevir): treats hepatitis C viruses types 1, 4, and 6. This drug is taken once a day. It offers hope to people with a chronic hepatitis C infection. The side effects are usually mild such as headaches, tiredness, and a bellyache.
  • Harvoni (ledipasvir and sofosbuvir): is the first interferon-free drug to treat type 1 hepatitis C virus. It can also be used to treat types 4, 5, and 6 hepatitis C viruses. It is also taken once a day and has mild side effects like the previous medicine.
  • Technivie (ombitasvir, paritaprevir, ritonavir): this drug is suggested to patients who have type 4 viruses, except for those who have cirrhosis. It is usually taken with ribavirin to increase the chances of completely curing the infection. Along with the mild side effects, it might damage the liver if given to patients with advanced cirrhosis.
  • Olysio (simeprevir) and Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) both drugs are either taken with ribavirin or interferon. Olysio might make your skin sensitive to sunlight while Sovaldi has milder side effects.
  • Viekira Pak (oOmbitasvir, paritaprevir, ritonavir, and dasabuvir): treats the type 1 virus and liver scarring.

Researchers are still finding new treatments in a single pill that can get rid of all types of the hepatitis C virus.

The Side Effects of Treatment

You may face some side effects during the treatment. At the beginning, the side effects will be worse, but over time, it will reduce. If you feel too much trouble with the side effects, you should discuss with your doctor about the matter. Your doctor can give suggestions, so will feel relieved from its side effects. The side effects may include the following:

  • nausea
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • depression

Do not deviate from the prescribed treatments until your doctor advises you to stop taking them.

Facts About Hepatitis C

  1. Currently, in the United States, around 3 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
  2. The hepatitis C virus is rarely transmitted through sexual contact.
  3. The virus is not transmitted through breastfeeding.
  4. In most cases, liver replacements happen in the U.S. because of hepatitis C.
  5. Because of the development of antiviral medications, 90 to 95 percent of people get cured nowadays.

Living with hepatitis C is quite hard. You may become sad, feel angry, or you may become confused if you really have the disease or not. Consult with your doctor to have a proper diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Maintaining a good health and following the doctor's prescription can also help you cope with the infection.