Hepatitis is a liver infection, caused by the hepatitis virus. In the case of hepatitis C, it is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection causes inflammation in the liver causing serious liver damage and leading to conditions like liver cirrhosis, liver scarring and in extreme cases, liver failure. Highly contagious, the infection spreads through contaminated blood.
Hepatitis C can be of two types – acute and chronic. The onset of the symptoms of acute hepatitis C are quick and last a few days. This condition causes abdominal discomfort, fatigue, nausea and fever. On the other hand, the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C may not be apparent at first as they develop slowly, usually, over a period of months. Chronic HCV may lead to liver cancer.
HCV spreads primarily through blood and a little by other body fluids. It is spread through:
HCV does not spread through casual contact, sharing food, respiratory droplets, insect and mosquito bites or breastfeeding.
The following people are at the greatest risk of contracting HCV.
Though in 70 percent of HCV cases, there are no definitive symptoms, in cases where they do appear, typically a month to three after the infection, they can vary. The most common symptoms of acute hepatitis C include
Jaundice and clay-colored stools are the rarer symptoms.
In the case of chronic hepatitis C infection, the symptoms do not make an appearance for months. This is why it is called the silent epidemic.
In about 75 to 85 percent cases of chronic hepatitis C severe complications like liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure can develop.
Conditions like obesity, diabetes and smoking can accelerate liver scarring.
Though no vaccine is available against hepatitis C infection, it can be cured with the help of medicines. Nevertheless, as prevention is better than cure, it is advisable to stop using cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs, practice safe sex, avoid sharing items of personal hygiene, maintain the ideal weight, and be careful about where you get body piercing and tattoos done from.
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