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What is Hepatitis C

Snr By Dr Poonam Sachdev , Expert Content / Jan 17, 2013
What is Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a common cause of liver infection. It can cause both acute and chronic infection of the liver.

Hepatitis is a term used to indicate inflammation of the liver. It may be caused by certain viruses and other factors, such as alcohol abuse, some medications and trauma. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common type of viruses that cause hepatitis. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause acute or chronic infection of the liver.

Hepatitis C infection in most cases is a mild infection. Many people may never realise that they have been infected. Although it is usually a mild condition, hepatitis C is much more likely to lead to chronic liver disease as compared to hepatitis B infection. A person infected with HCV can become chronic carrier of the virus, even though he or she may have no symptoms. According to research about 75--85 per cemt of HCV-infected persons will progress to chronic HCV infection and 15 to percent of all chronically infected people develop chronic liver disease, regardless of whether they have or don’t have symptoms.

What causes hepatitis C

Hepatitis C infection is caused because of infection with a virus. The virus is known as Hepatitis C virus (HCV). It can be transmitted from one person to another. The major route of spread of hepatitis C infection is by exposure to human blood. Other modes of transmission include sharing needles to inject drugs, mother to child, sexually (between sex partners). About 80 per cent of people who share needles to inject drugs are infected with HCV. HCV is not transmitted because of food or water or casual contact, such as shaking hands or working in same work space or bathroom facility.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Many people with Hepatitis C infection do not develop any symptoms.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis C infection

  • Fever
  • Feeling tiredness (fatigue) or exhaustion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of skin and the whites of the eyes). About 1 in 5 people who do experience symptoms of acute hepatitis C develop jaundice.
  • Dark coloured urine (the colour of cola or tea)
  • Pale stools (greyish or clay coloured).

Common symptoms of chronic hepatitis C infection

  • feeling tired and exhausted most of the time
  • frequent headaches
  • indigestion and /or sensation of bloating
  • flu-like symptoms (similar to ones that occur in the acute phase of the infection)
  • abdominal pain and pain in the liver area (located on the right side of the abdomen, under the lower rib cage).

Treatment of Hepatitis C infection

Treatment during acute phase of illness is supportive. It may include fluid replacement to correct dehydration, medications to control fever, vomiting. Antiviral medications are not needed in cases with acute hepatitis C infection. Every one with chronic hepatitis C infection doesn't need treatment. Medications are given to clear the virus from the body. The usual combination used for treatment for chronic hepatitis C includes pegylated interferon and ribavirin.




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