What is Hepatitis C? How is Hepatitis C transmitted?
Hepatitis C (Hep C) is a liver disease transmitted by contact with blood containing the virus of the same name (HCV). The virus can progress from a mild form of the disease, which can be short-lived, to a severe form of the disease that can last a lifetime. Every fourth person with the disease will recover in 6 months without treatment but the rest 75% will face the risk of developing chronic Hep C. When left untreated, the disease can turn into serious health problems like liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer in the long term (20-30 years).
Hepatitis C is a silent disease until the late stages of the disease. Therefore, it is very difficult to catch the disease at the onset. Due to a long incubation period with mild symptoms, cases are often diagnosed late. Sometimes the disease is asymptomatic, and sometimes it shows very common symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and indigestion.
How is Hepatitis C transmitted?
Hepatitis C spreads with exposure to the blood, blood products or related tools from Hep C positive individuals. It is more common in people who are given blood and blood products and especially in drug users. Polygamy is recognized to increase the risk of hepatitis C, but it is controversial whether the disease is transmitted through sexual contact. Hepatitis C is not transmitted at home, at work and in other social contacts (such as shaking hands, kissing). Approximately 1.5 million new cases are reported worldwide each year.
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
Unlike other hepatitis, Hep C usually may not cause jaundice. Therefore, it is very difficult to recognize the disease at the onset. In approximately 75 percent of those who have hepatitis C, the disease becomes chronic within an average of 10 years. Cirrhosis develops in about 20 years and liver cancer in about 30 years. In other words, hepatitis C is a slowly progressing disease. Men over 40 years of age who drink alcohol have a higher risk of developing cirrhosis.
Hepatitis C symptoms
It can take a few weeks to a few months for the symptoms of the disease to become apparent. These symptoms include
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Dark urine color and jaundice
How is Hepatitis C treated?
The disease is easily detected by a blood test and early diagnosis offers a good chance of cure. However, these patients are often detected while they are being treated for other complaints. Once the disease is detected, additional tests and even liver biopsies, if necessary, can be performed to understand how long it has been present. Measures and treatments are planned according to these findings. A very simple and effective treatment option is the direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medication for 2 to 3 months, which offers more than 80% success rate.
How to prevent Hepatitis C?
There is no vaccine for this disease yet and the best way to prevent it is to take individual precautions. These include following general hygiene rules and not using items that others have used, such as needles, syringes and razors, which can be contaminated with infected blood.