What is hepatitis? It is an infection that causes inflammation of the liver. And we are back to school, repeating things that we have mugged up. But do we really understand it? If I were to ask you what inflammation means in terms of health what would you say? A burning sensation may be. Inflammation is actually body’s response or reaction to an actual or perceived injury or infection. In this process, chemicals are released by white blood cells to beat both trouble causing agent and the damaged tissue or part.
Coming back to hepatitis, so when the infection affects the liver, our body reacts back through the process of inflammation. Hepatitis is of 5 types – A, B, C, D and E. Today we are talking about Hepatitis C which is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).
This form of hepatitis is contagious and is commonly transferred through contact with infected blood. Risk factors would include – sharing infected or not sterilized medical equipment, any unsafe transfusion, sharing syringes, unsafe sex. An infected mother may pass it to the child, but this disease is curable.
Hep C is of various genotypes on which the treatment is based, however, it is broadly categorized as Acute or Chronic. The difference between the two is the time duration and in effect the lasting effects. Acute hepatitis C often lasts a few months with or without symptoms and vacates your body eventually. But when left untreated it grows to be Chronic and increasing chances of suffering from Cirrhosis or Liver Cancer manifolds. Even if not, it severely damages the liver requiring transplants. According to WHO reports, about 71 million people globally are infected with chronic hep C, which is an epidemic waiting to happen, owing to its contagious nature.
Often it doesn’t present any symptoms which is how it goes undetected for long, but some people may suffer from Fatigue, Nausea, jaundice, Fever, Pain in Abdomen, Weight loss, loss of appetite as symptoms. The diagnosis is done through a blood test. The most common test is HCV antibody test. For confirmation, one needs to undergo HCV viral load test.
Thre are 6 types of genotypes and the treatment varies slightly for each. But mostly a combination of Sofosbuvir, Daclatasvir, Ledipasvir (all antiviral) medications is used. In fact, WHO reports that using antiviral can cure up to 95% of cases, that’s a lot of hope there. There can be a few side effects of the drugs, like nausea, rashes, fever.
The main concern with Hep C is that for the most part of its inhabitation in the body it remains symptoms less and becomes visible when the liver has suffered sufficient damage. So if you have any of the risk factors, it would be a good idea to get yourself checked and even better if you steer clear of the risk factors.
Beyond that stay healthy, stay hip but hep free.