Symptoms and diagnosis of hepatitis C
An estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that almost 2.7 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis C. The numbers are high due to the unnoticeable signs and symptoms of a hepatitis C infection. Though some symptoms of hepatitis C are felt in the early stage, most people doubt the symptoms and don’t get tested unless they have a reason for the same. There are different types of hepatitis C that are segregated as per the illnesses’ response to the treatment. However, essentially, there are two types of hepatitis C – acute and chronic. Acute is the initial phase of hepatitis C infection while chronic is an advanced stage.
How does the hepatitis C infection spread?
Unlike hepatitis A and B, a vaccine cannot prevent hepatitis C. This virus is commonly transmitted or spread through blood. There is also a high possibility of transmitting the infection through sexual intercourse. However, this is not as common as the infection being spread through blood. The infection can spread or be transmitted in the following ways:
- Long-term hemodialysis.
- Injecting drugs, especially recreational drugs.
- Unsafe or non-sterile tattoo or piercing.
- Unprotected sexual intercourse, or sexual intercourse with multiple partners, or a history of STDs.
- Frequent exposure to needles or blood.
- Expecting mothers with an existing hepatitis C infection could pass it on to their child. However, there is a low risk of the infection being transmitted this way.
What tests are taken to diagnose hepatitis C?
There are several tests taken to diagnose a hepatitis C infection. Some of the popular tests are mentioned below.
- HCV RNA test or Viral Load Test – This test is done to look for an active hepatitis C virus infection and the quantity of the hepatitis C virus in the blood. The viral load tests are taken before the treatment to diagnose, during the treatment to measure progress, and after to treatment to see the result of the treatment.
- HCV Antibody Tests – This is a simple blood test that detects the HCV antibodies. If the test is positive, it means that the virus has infected the person at some point.
- Genotype Test – This test is done to identify the type of the hepatitis C infection.
- Liver Biopsy – This test is run to measure the severity of the inflammation of the liver. It also measures the scarring of the liver and the general health of the liver.
- Liver Biochemical/Function Tests – In this test, the patient’s blood is tested to identify the quality of liver’s functioning. Once a person is tested positive for hepatitis C virus, they should get their liver tested.
What measures can patients take to manage hepatitis C?
People who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C can take certain measures:
- Nutrition and healthy eating
- Healthcare team – The healthcare team includes the primary care physicians and the hepatologist.
- Quitting or reducing alcohol
- Taking enough rest – Hepatitis C brings lot of tiredness and fatigue in a person, and hence, getting enough rest is essential.
- Stress management initiatives – Stress leads to many diseases and illnesses, and it can also trouble other people around the patient. Hence, taking measures to manage stress is important.
- Exercising – It is important to maintain a healthy body from inside and outside. One must eat a healthy and nutritious diet for better health and also exercise regularly to remain strong.
Do different type of hepatitis C has different symptoms?
- The symptoms of acute hepatitis C include abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, flu-like illness, headaches, indigestion, jaundice, loss of appetite, muscle or joint pain, nausea, night sweats, and vomiting.
- The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C include brain fog and depression along with other symptoms of acute hepatitis C.
- The late stage of hepatitis C with cirrhosis include symptoms such as cognitive dysfunction, dizziness, frequent urination, lack of concentration, peripheral vision issues, fluid retention, jaundice, and other symptoms of acute and chronic hepatitis C.