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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Episode 3-Hepatitis C

 Hepatitis C

By Christie LaValley for Under the Covers on
***This is in no way is an ad for sex.  These are suggestions for your personal life, not for office visits.

Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. Most people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have no symptoms. In fact, most people don't know they have the hepatitis C infection until liver damage shows up, decades later, during routine medical tests.
Hepatitis C is one of several hepatitis viruses and is generally considered to be among the most serious of these viruses. Hepatitis C is passed through contact with contaminated blood — most commonly through needles shared during illegal drug use.
Hepatitis C infection usually produces no signs or symptoms during its earliest stages. When signs and symptoms do occur, they're generally mild and flu-like and may include:
    Nausea or poor appetite
    Muscle and joint pains
    Tenderness in the area of your liver
Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is spread when you come in contact with contaminated blood.
Examples of how HCV can be spread include:
  • Blood transfusions and organ transplants before 1992. Improved blood-screening tests became available in 1992. Before that year, it was possible to unknowingly contract hepatitis C through a blood transfusion or organ transplant.
  • Shared needles. HCV can also spread through sharing contaminated needles when injecting drugs.
  • Childbirth. A small number of babies born to mothers with hepatitis C acquire the infection during childbirth.
  • Sexual contact. In rare cases, HCV may be transmitted sexually.
Your risk of hepatitis C infection is increased if you:
  • Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood
  • Have ever injected illicit drugs
  • Have HIV
  • Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
  • Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
  • Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
  • Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection
Hepatitis C infection that continues over many years can cause significant complications, such as:
  • Scarring of the liver tissue (cirrhosis). After 20 to 30 years of hepatitis C infection, cirrhosis may occur. Scarring in your liver makes it difficult for your liver to function.
  • Liver cancer. A small number of people with hepatitis C infection may develop liver cancer.
  • Liver failure. A liver that is severely damaged by hepatitis C may be unable to function.
Blood tests to diagnose hepatitis C
Blood tests may help to:
  • Determine whether you have the hepatitis C virus
  • Measure the quantity of the hepatitis C virus in your blood (viral load)
  • Evaluate the genetic makeup of the virus (genotyping), which helps determine your treatment options
Testing samples of liver tissue to determine severity of liver damage
Your doctor may also recommend a procedure to remove a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing. A liver biopsy can help determine the severity of the disease and guide treatment decisions. During a liver biopsy, your doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin and into your liver to remove the tissue sample.
Treatment isn't always necessary
A diagnosis of hepatitis C infection doesn't necessarily mean you need treatment. If you have only slight liver abnormalities, you may not need treatment, because your risk of future liver problems is very low. Your doctor may recommend follow-up blood tests to monitor for liver problems.
Antiviral medications
Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body. Your doctor may recommend a combination of medications taken over several weeks. Once you complete a course of treatment, your doctor will test your blood for the hepatitis C virus. If hepatitis C is still present, your doctor may recommend a second round of treatment.
Antiviral medications can cause depression and flu-like signs and symptoms, such as fatigue, fever and headache. Some side effects can be serious enough that treatment must be delayed or stopped in certain cases.
Liver transplant
If your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.
For people with hepatitis C infection, a liver transplant is not a cure. Treatment with antiviral medications usually continues after a liver transplant, since hepatitis C infection is likely to recur in the new liver.
Vaccinations to protect against other forms of viral hepatitis
Your doctor will likely recommend that you receive vaccines against the hepatitis A and B viruses. These are separate viruses that also can cause liver damage and complicate treatment of hepatitis C.
If you receive a diagnosis of hepatitis C, your doctor will probably recommend certain changes. These measures will help keep you healthy longer and protect the health of others and those you love:
  • Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol speeds the progression of liver disease.
  • Avoid medications that may cause liver damage. Review your medications with your doctor, including the over-the-counter medications you take. Your doctor may recommend avoiding certain medications.
  • Stay healthy. Make healthy lifestyle choices each day. For example, choose a diet full of fruits and vegetables, exercise most days of the week, and get enough sleep so that you wake feeling rested.
  • Help prevent others from coming in contact with your blood. Cover any wounds you have and don't share razors or toothbrushes. Don't donate blood, body organs or semen, and advise health care workers that you have the virus.
All information taken from:

***This is in no way is an ad for sex.  These are suggestions for your personal life, not for office visits. 

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