What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis doesn’t actually refer to a specific disease, but means ‘inflammation of the liver’. However, while some medications and alcohol can cause this inflammation, most types of Hepatitis are caused by a viral infection.
Unfortunately, chronic types of hepatitis can be hard to diagnose, as they don’t initially cause symptoms and progress very gradually.
Hepatitis C is a viral form of hepatitis contracted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, such as unprotected sex or sharing needles during intravenous drug-taking. It’s also one of the most prevalent viral infections acquired by blood transfusion in the US. While most people experience a long-term, chronic form of the disease, making it hard to detect, around 15-30% have acute (short-term) hepatitis C. This acute form does produce identifiable symptoms.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
While chronic hepatitis C may be practically asymptomatic until it has progressed to causing liver damage, acute hepatitis C does display symptoms, including:
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Nausea, vomiting and upset stomach
Symptoms of advanced hepatitis C can include:
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale stools
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Bruising easily
- Finding that bleeding takes longer to stop
What is the medical treatment for hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is usually treated with 1 to 3 medications. These regimes include drugs that boost your immune system and antivirals that attack the hepatitis C virus directly.