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Hepatitis C - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Jan 06, 2022

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis c virus that primarily affects the liver. It is a viral strain that can cause chronic symptoms and can affect your liver. It predominantly attacks your liver making them vulnerable, and after a period, a complete failure of the liver can occur. Such conditions can be life-threatening and can be fatal in most cases. The major way by which the virus transmits is through unsafe sex where your partner might be having the viral strains.

This condition takes place after the liver gets infected and inflamed as getting infected by HCV or hepatitis c virus, which may either be chronic or acute in nature. The acute hepatitis c symptoms have quite a rapid onset and may last for some weeks. The chronic hepatitis c, on the other hand, has symptoms which develop through a period of few months which might not be apparent initially. Hepatitis C, unlike A and B, does not have a vaccine, even though efforts for creating one are still ongoing.

What's the difference between hepatitis A,B and C?

All three types of hepatitis affect your liver. They are different in their transmission and symptoms on the infectants.

Hepatitis A is one of the most common types of hepatitis found amongst patients. It may result in mild and acute inflammation which may be Zee water/ food or human to human contact. The good news is, hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis B is more common in Asia than in any other continent. The patients may experience both acute and chronic symptoms. In this case, it is necessary to get medical attention for early detection and treatment. The chronic stage of Hep B can further be converted into cirrhosis or liver cancer if not detected on time. This is transmitted through body fluids like blood, spit, etc. in various ways. Like hepatitis A this can also be prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis C is one of the most serious of all, as its symptoms are very mild which often gets undetected until reaching a life-threatening situation. This is quite rare in occurrence and it has four stages which include incubation, acute, chronic, and last cirrhosis or liver cancer. One may live a long life without detecting the infection’s presence, however, early detection may decrease the development of infection into cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is spread through blood. This type of hepatitis cannot be prevented, as there is no vaccine found so far to prevent the disease.

Summary: All three types of hepatitis affect your liver. They are different in their transmission and symptoms on the infectants.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C symptoms:

Most of the people do not know if they have the viral strain as it rarely shows symptoms. During the initial infection, people often have mild or no symptoms. and the virus damages the liver and these are the symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark-coloured skin
  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Discolouration of skin and eye
  • Swelling of legs
  • Confusion
  • The buildup of fluid in the abdomen

Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C:

If a person is suffering for a long time then it may convert to chronic hepatitis C. The symptoms cannot be diagnosed and can remain in the body for several years and you may not even know it. The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C are as follows:

  • Easy bleeding
  • Bruises
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Weight loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Spider-like blood vessels under the skin

The overall health of the person is affected due to liver infection and the quick damage in the liver occurs and there is a possible progression of cirrhosis. This can make the liver collapse.

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis c transmission:

  • An infected mother transmitting it to the baby at the time of birth
  • A needle prick injury
  • Close proximity with someone having HBV
  • Engaging in oral, anal and vaginal sex
  • The use of an infected razor or toothbrush

How long does it take Hep C to damage liver?

Damage to your liver depends on many factors associated with your overall health and the severity of the case. There are four stages of hepatitis C, each of them has its duration of growth into your liver. In case of permanent damage or cirrhosis, it almost takes 20-30 years in order to damage your liver completely.

Summary: Damage to your liver depends on many factors associated with your overall health and the severity of the case. In case of permanent damage or cirrhosis, it almost takes 20-30 years in order to damage your liver completely.

What causes hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C causes:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Hepatitis C prevailed Travel destinations
  • Non-sterile injection usage
  • Hemodialysis
  • Tattoos and piercings
  • Sexual partners

How long can you have Hep C without knowing?

Each stage has different sets of symptoms which may look normal at first. From the incubation to the chronic stage it may have gone undetected. Also in 15-25% of cases, cirrhosis also went undetected. This means one may live around 20-30 years of their lives without even noticing the infection of hepatitis C.

Summary: From the incubation to the chronic stage it may have gone undetected, which makes hep C last long inside your body without even knowing it.

How is hepatitis C diagnosed?

Hepatitis C tests:

  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests

What is the best treatment for hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C treatment:

Antiviral Medications: Antiviral medication is given during hepatitis C to clean the virus from the body of the person. The main aim of the treatment is to get your body clear from all the virus of Hepatitis C after the 12 weeks. By taking antiviral medications people get better results, fewer side effects, and the treatment can be done in a shorter time.

Liver transplantation: It affects the liver and sometimes damages it completely thus leaving only one option that is liver transplant because it can create more complications in the body of the patient. While doing liver transplant the doctor takes out the damaged liver then it is replaced with a healthy liver.

Vaccination: There are no vaccinations for hepatitis C and the viruses of hepatitis C cannot be cured with hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Therefore one must keep the liver healthy if diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

People with hepatitis c may not know that they have the virus as it rarely shows symptoms. So, every individual who is diagnosed with hepatitis c virus, need to undergo the treatment.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

In some cases, drugs and the treatment are not advised as the virus might have gone to the advanced stages. In those stages, the liver would have been damaged beyond repair and transplant may be the only option available. Also, hepatitis drugs are of very strong dosages, and they can leave with side effects. Hence please check with your doctor about your general health and the type of dosages suitable for you.

Can you live a long life with Hep C?

As the matter of fact, yes with the help of proper care and treatment one may have a healthy life. Most of the studies have shown that early detection alongside proper care can increase your lifeline and prevent you from developing any serious medical complications.

Summary: One can have a long healthy life if one takes good treatment and precautions towards hepatitis C. Early detection can help you heal quickly and control the damage caused by hep C.

What are the side effects of hepatitis C treatment?

Hepatitis C drugs are of very strong nature, and you will be experiencing side effects. They also do not work for everyone and being diagnosed with such a condition can change your life and your life patterns. Do consult with your doctor in detail about your health and discuss the potential side effects that may occur.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

As a whole when you are undergoing the treatment, your life patterns would change. You might be asked to adhere to a particular lifestyle, and your diet habits will be altered. You might not be in a position to do all the work you have been able to do before. Severe liver damages can make you bed-ridden, and you might have to take the help of palliative care in some extreme cases.

How long does it take to recover from hepatitis C treatment?

The recovery period depends on the type of symptoms you have and how advanced the hepatitis virus is in your system. A combination of antiviral medications can prevent liver problems, and they might have to be taken for a longer period. You would be required to take periodic tests with your doctor to check how well your liver is performing.

How do you prevent hepatitis C from spreading?

  • Avoid sharing the same needles: People who are intravenous drug users are at the risk of getting it because they may use the same needle many times. If the person snorts drugs cocaine this can also transmit the disease if the same straw is being used by another user.
  • Direct exposure to blood and blood products should not be done: If a person is a doctor or medical worker then they can get transmitted with infection if they come in direct contact of the blood. Therefore the equipment that is being used must be sterilized properly to prevent direct contact with blood and stop spreading it.
  • No sharing of personal care items: People must not share items of personal care with other people because they can be exposed to blood while shaving, or normal cuts thus it increases the danger of spreading it. If a person is already suffering from then they must take care that they do not spread it to other people by sharing the items.
  • Practising safe sex: It can be spread or transmitted through sexual activities or intercourse. The chance of getting hepatitis increases if you have HIV, multiple sex partners, or if you are engaged in rough sex. Therefore while having sex person must stay cautious and practice safe sex.

What are the complications of hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is the kind of infection which is related to the inflammation or swelling of the liver. Therefore it is important that the liver must be kept healthy.

  • If a person is suffering from chronic hepatitis C then he/she can experience liver damage. The symptoms of infection are seen at the time of liver damage and before that they are unknown.
  • Due to hepatitis C, 60-70 people can develop chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is developed in 5-20 people which is again a disease related to the liver. Overtime 1-5 people die from liver cancer or cirrhosis.
  • Chronic hepatitis C can get developed due to hepatitis C virus. When there is cirrhosis then the patient liver stops functioning and the scars get developed and if this situation is not treated then it can lead to liver failure.
  • Once cirrhosis gets developed it can get developed into life-threatening complications and becomes the most common cause of liver transplant.

What is the cost of hepatitis C treatment in India?

Hepatitis C treatment is extremely costly. A full course of medicines and medications can cost about INR 4, 00,000. Apart from these, the drugs have serious side effects and treating them or keeping them under control can be added. There are talks between pharmacy companies to introduce them as low-cost medicines in the price ranges of INR 50,000. So in the future, we can expect these drugs to hit the market with a reduced price tag.

Is Hepatitis C Curable?

Hepatitis c cure:

The cure depends on how well your body reacts to the medicine and how well your liver has fared. After the course of medicines, you can definitely see improvements, and it can be a permanent fixation. However, even after the treatment, you have to go for periodic check-ups to check how well your liver is now faring. The treatment also has its chances that it may not work for everyone.

What are the alternatives to hepatitis C treatment?

Currently, there is no alternative to hepatitis treatment and medications. In advanced stages, if your liver is completely damaged, then a liver transplant may be the only option available. There can be some homemade herbal remedies that can be beneficial in the long run, but they would be unable to cure the symptoms completely.

Key Highlights about hepatitis C treatment:

Safety: Medium

Effectiveness: Medium

Timeliness: High

Relative Risk: High

Side Effects: High

Recovery Time: High

Price Range: RS. 4,00,000 and above

Conclusion: Hepatitis C is a type of liver disease, which causes inflammation in your liver. This is quite rare in occurrence as it can only be transmitted through blood. One may live a long life without detecting the infection’s presence, however, early detection may decrease the development of infection into cirrhosis or liver cancer.


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Written ByDr. Akhilesh Singh Post Graduate Course In Diabetology,CCEBDM(DIABETOLOGY) & CCMH ( CARDIOLOGY)General Physician
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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