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Hepatitis C Signs & Symptoms

By: | Tags: , , | Comments: 0 | November 12th, 2014

Hepatitis C is one of the three viral infections that can affect the liver and its functions. This illness can be treated and contained if it is caught in the early stages, however, late diagnosis and interventions can lead to chronic health problems. It is also important for people who think that they may have Hep C to identify the illness in order to avoid contamination of others, and recognizing the signs and symptoms is the first step towards management.

Hepatitis C Transmission

The Hep C virus is transmitted by blood to blood contamination. This can most frequently occur through:

  • Needle sharing
  • Touching contaminated blood to an open wound
  • Transmission from mother to child during pregnancy
  • Sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors with a person who has Hep C
  • Sexual contact with a person who has Hep C

Can Hep C be Spread Through Eye Exposure?

Although this is not a common means of transmission, some cases of infection through eye exposure have been reported. However, these cases have involved patients being stuck in the eye with an infected needle, or having infected blood droplets come in contact with the eye. The more common modes of transmission are those listed above.

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Can You get Hep C from getting a Tattoo?

In most cases, this is not highly likely. The virus can survive outside of the body for between 16 hour to up to four days, and reputable tattoo parlors take sterilization precautions to ensure that the pathogen will not be transmitted. Most licensed tattoo parlors will not only have clients fill out a disclosure regarding possible diseases that can be spread by blood, but also hire employees who are certified for blood borne pathogen containment. It is possible to catch Hep C from a tattoo that is performed under non sterile conditions, but state licensure for a responsible tattoo parlor has reduced this risk.

The Common Symptoms for Hep C

Although many people who have Hepatitis C may not show any symptoms, or even feel sick, there are still indicators that present, especially as the disease progresses. These include:

  • Fever and fatigue
  • Vomiting, nausea, and lack of appetite
  • Dark urine color
  • Pale color to bowel movement
  • Pain in the joints
  • Signs of jaundice
  • Severe itching and rash

Any or all of these symptoms may be present, but being tested for the virus is the only certain way of confirming a diagnosis.

How can a Person Identify a Hep C Rash

The rash and itching that is associated with symptoms for Hep C may look like an extreme case of dermatitis, although it is generally also accompanied by the joint pain and even mild jaundice. This condition comes from the body trying to process toxins through the skin, since the liver function has been compromised. While the rash will often be an obvious sign, it is usually accompanied by abdominal discomfort as the liver struggles to process impurities.

Early Signs for Hepatitis C

While some people can be carrying Hepatitis C without showing any symptoms, other can exhibit mild to severe signs as listed above. These symptoms can show as early as two weeks after exposure, but may also take as long as six months to become apparent. For that reason, if a person suspects that they may have been exposed to the virus, it is recommended that they receive testing at the first possible chance.

What to do at the First Signs of Symptoms

For people who are showing symptoms related to Hep C, or if there is a fear that infection may have occurred, it is vital to report this to a doctor and have the necessary blood tests and liver enzyme tests performed. This will allow for the appropriate intervention and treatment to be started, before the disease develops into a chronic condition that can result in extreme liver damage.

Treatments for Hep C

There are accepted and viable treatments for both acute and chronic Hepatitis C. The most common is the use of interferon or a combination of ribavirin and interferon. These antiviral treatments can be further aided with steps that are taken to support liver function, and show high success rates for both relief and management.

Is there a Cure for Hep C?

In some patients with Hep C, the treatment will result in a full removal of the virus from the person’s system. While this is considered an active cure, it has been witnessed in up to 25% of the cases that are reported to the CDC. It is thought that certain genetic precursors allow for this possibility of a cure, although further research is being conducted to discover a mechanism that may be applicable to a greater segment of the population.

Can a Person get Vaccinated Against Hepatitis C?

At present, there is no vaccination against the virus. This is another part of the ongoing research into the virus, although there is hope that the combination of treatment and understanding genetic variables that lead to cure may soon result in a viable vaccine.

Post-exposure Steps for Hep C Infection

The most important thing for people who have been exposed to Hep C to do is to confer with a doctor and begin treatment. Along with this initial process, people should also:

  • Inform loved ones and live in partners about exposure risks
  • Inform employers, especially in a healthcare situation
  • Begin treatment and receive routine monitoring of liver function
  • Get involved with a Hep C support group

Are there Measures for Prophylaxis with Hepatitis C?

People can avoid risk situations that may expose them to the Hep C virus. This includes:

  • Not engaging in needle sharing
  • Not sharing personal health items with people who have Hep C
  • Engaging in safe sex practices
  • Taking precautions as a healthcare worker to avoid the possibility of needle sticks

What Happens if Chronic Hepatitis C Develops?

Chronic cases of the infection should be monitored and can be treated. One of the most important steps to take in cases of chronic Hep C is to ensure that liver function is preserved. This can include:

  • Changes to the diet
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Consulting a physician for regular monitoring
  • Routinely checking liver enzyme function

Is it Necessary to get an Ultrasound of the Liver?

It is highly recommended that people with both acute and chronic Hep C should monitor liver function, and an ultrasound can quickly detect the formation of lesions or swelling in the organ. This will also provide better insight into disease progression, an possible changes in treatment to address this type of inflammation.

Knowing the Facts about Hep C

It is important for people who have been diagnosed with Hep C to learn the facts about the disease, but this necessity also extends to loved ones who are living with the patient. Proper education not only leads to better treatment, but can also prevent further spread. Many Hep C support groups provide this resource, as do physicians and CDC fact sheets.

Do Cases of Hep C Need to Be Reported to the CDC?

As a highly infectious bold born virus, Hep C is tracked by the CDC. Diagnosing and treating doctors will report the necessary information to the agency, but will also give treatment and remission updates to promote continued research for future interventions for this illness.

Living with Hepatitis C

People who suffer from this disease can still live relatively healthy and productive lives. Acute cases, especially if they are caught early can be well managed with treatment, and may even lead to full remission. Chronic cases of Hep C can also be managed and treated, although there is a greater focus on preserving liver health in the process. With the right precautions, education, and intervention, patients with Hep C can still survive and even flourish.

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