What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis is a type of infection that infects the bloodstream and causes inflammation of the liver. There are various forms of the virus that affect millions of people in the United States alone. One type is Hepatitis C. This version is classified as contagious; however, there are not often outside signs that you have it. Let’s take a look at hepatitis C, how it spreads, and how you can protect yourself.
There are two main types of hepatitis C virus infection:
Acute hepatitis C virus infection typically appears within six months of being exposed to hepatitis C. Most times this leads to the second type, which is chronic.
Chronic hepatitis C virus infection is classified as a long-term infection that remains in the body after the hepatitis C virus invades. This type puts individuals at risk for severe liver complications.
What Causes Hepatitis C?
Most people contract hepatitis C by coming in contact with someone who is infected. Since it infects the bloodstream, the most common means of infection happen through needles and drug paraphernalia. There are other less-likely causes such as sharing razors or toothbrushes, or having sex with someone who is infected.
Children can contract the virus in the womb if their mother is infected. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant, your doctor will recommend you get tested.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 70-80% of people with acute hepatitis C virus don’t show any symptoms. Although some people occasionally show minimal side effects, such as fever or fatigue.
Typically, it takes around 6-7 weeks after being exposed to the virus for symptoms to surface. Most of the time those with chronic hepatitis C show no symptoms but experience internal damage to the liver.
How Can I Prevent Hepatitis C?
Avoid sharing objects like needles, practice safe sex, and make sure your partner gets tested. Remember without getting tested there’s really no way of knowing if you have the virus. Visit your doctor if you want to learn more about the hepatitis C vaccine.
There are tests that your healthcare provider can administer to check your bloodstream and make sure your liver is functioning well.
According to the CDC, in 2014 there were between 2.7 and 3.9 million people suffering from chronic hepatitis C in the United States. Around 75-85% of those affected by hepatitis C will develop the chronic virus infection.
If you’re suffering from hepatitis C or worried you may have it, contact your doctor immediately. Your physician will be able to test your blood for the infection. Also, it’s important that you have an honest conversation with your doctor, so they know of any potential risk factors.
Choose to be proactive and it could save you and your liver from a multitude of health issues.