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Category: Virus
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createdon: 17 Mar 2023
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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Mar 17, 2023
Updated Apr 06, 2023

Table of contents

Hepatitis C

Etymology and Pronunciation

Hepatitis (hep-uh-TY-tis)
hepar - Greek for "liver"
-itis - Greek for "inflammation"

History of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver.

In 1989, a team of researchers led by Dr. Michael Houghton at Chiron Corporation in California discovered the virus that causes Hepatitis C. The discovery was made using a novel technique called “gene cloning,” which involved identifying a fragment of the virus's genetic material and then using it to create a complete copy of the virus's genome.

The discovery of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) was a significant breakthrough in the field of viral hepatitis research. Prior to its discovery, the majority of cases of non-A, non-B hepatitis were thought to be caused by a single virus, now known as Hepatitis E. However, it was soon discovered that there were multiple strains of HCV, which explained why previous attempts to develop a vaccine or treatment for non-A, non-B hepatitis had failed.

In the early 1990s, the development of a blood test to detect HCV was a direct result of its discovery, allowing for the screening of blood donations and significantly reducing the risk of transmission through blood transfusions.

In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first treatment for Hepatitis C, which involved a combination of interferon and ribavirin. Since then, several other treatments have been developed, including direct-acting antiviral drugs, which have a higher cure rate and fewer side effects than earlier treatments.

Modern Understanding of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver. The virus, which is transmitted through blood, can cause both acute and chronic infection. While hepatitis C can be a serious condition, with proper treatment, most people are able to manage the infection and live long and healthy lives. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hepatitis C.

Diagnosis:

Hepatitis C is typically diagnosed through a blood test that checks for the presence of HCV antibodies in the blood. If the test is positive, a second test will be performed to confirm the diagnosis and determine the genotype of the virus.

In some cases, a liver biopsy may also be performed to determine the extent of liver damage and assess the risk of developing liver disease or liver cancer.

Prevention:

1. Practice Safe Sex: One of the most common ways that hepatitis C is transmitted is through sexual contact. It's important to practice safe sex by using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex. While condoms are not 100% effective in preventing the transmission of hepatitis C, they can greatly reduce the risk.
2. Do Not Share Needles: Hepatitis C can also be transmitted through the sharing of needles, syringes, or other equipment used to inject drugs. If you inject drugs, it's important to never share needles or other equipment. If you are unable to quit drug use, consider enrolling in a needle exchange program. These programs provide clean needles and other supplies to help reduce the spread of hepatitis C and other blood-borne infections.
3. Practice Good Hygiene: Hepatitis C can be transmitted through contact with infected blood. To prevent the spread of the virus, it's important to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, especially after using the bathroom or coming into contact with blood or bodily fluids.
4. Get Tested: If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C, it's important to get tested. Many people with hepatitis C do not experience symptoms for years, so getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you are infected. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications.
5. Get Vaccinated: While there is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, there are vaccines available for hepatitis A and B. These vaccines can help prevent the spread of these other types of viral hepatitis, which can also cause liver damage and other complications.
6. Be Careful: When Getting Tattoos or Piercings Hepatitis C can be transmitted through the use of unsterilized needles or equipment during tattooing or piercing. To reduce the risk of infection, make sure the tattoo or piercing parlor you visit uses sterile equipment and follows proper sanitation procedures.
7. Take Precautions: When Providing Health Care Health care workers and others who come into contact with blood or bodily fluids on a regular basis are at increased risk of contracting hepatitis C. To reduce the risk of infection, it's important to take precautions when providing health care. This may include wearing gloves and other protective equipment, disposing of needles and other sharps properly, and following proper sanitation procedures.

Complications:

If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious complications, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. People with hepatitis C are also at increased risk of developing other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

In some cases, hepatitis C can also lead to cryoglobulinemia, a condition in which abnormal proteins in the blood can cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs throughout the body.

Symptoms

Hepatitis C can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. The symptoms of hepatitis C can vary from person to person, and some people may not experience any symptoms at all.

Acute Hepatitis C Symptoms

Most people who contract hepatitis C will develop acute hepatitis C, which is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after exposure to the virus. The symptoms of acute hepatitis C can include:

1. Fatigue: Feeling tired and sluggish is a common symptom of acute hepatitis C. This can be caused by the body's immune system working hard to fight off the virus.
2. Flu-like symptoms: Many people with acute hepatitis C experience symptoms that are similar to the flu, such as fever, muscle aches, and headaches.
3. Jaundice: Jaundice is a condition that causes yellowing of the skin and eyes. It occurs when the liver is unable to process bilirubin, a substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.
4. Abdominal pain: Some people with acute hepatitis C may experience abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of the liver.
5. Nausea and vomiting: These symptoms can occur due to the body's reaction to the virus or as a side effect of medications used to treat the infection.
6. Loss of appetite: Many people with acute hepatitis C lose their appetite or feel nauseous when eating.

Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms

If left untreated, acute hepatitis C can develop into chronic hepatitis C, which is a long-term illness that can last for many years. Chronic hepatitis C often does not cause symptoms in its early stages, but as the disease progresses, symptoms can include:

1. Fatigue: Chronic hepatitis C can cause ongoing fatigue that is not relieved by rest or sleep.
2. Jaundice: People with chronic hepatitis C may develop jaundice, which can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes.
3. Abdominal pain: As the liver becomes more damaged, people with chronic hepatitis C may experience abdominal pain or discomfort.
4. Nausea and vomiting: These symptoms can occur due to the body's reaction to the virus or as a side effect of medications used to treat the infection.
5. Loss of appetite: Many people with chronic hepatitis C lose their appetite or feel nauseous when eating.
6. Swelling in the legs: As liver damage progresses, it can cause fluid to build up in the legs, leading to swelling and discomfort.
7. Easy bruising or bleeding: Chronic hepatitis C can cause a decrease in platelets, which are blood cells that help with clotting. This can lead to easy bruising or bleeding.
8. Spider veins: Some people with chronic hepatitis C may develop spider veins, which are small red or blue veins that appear on the skin.

Causes of Hepatitis C

1. Intravenous Drug Use: Intravenous drug use is the most common cause of HCV infection. Sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia with an infected person increases the risk of contracting HCV. People who have ever injected drugs, including those who have only done it once or twice, are at a higher risk of developing HCV.

2. Blood Transfusions: Before 1992, blood transfusions were not screened for HCV. As a result, many people who received blood transfusions before that time may have contracted HCV. This is now a rare cause of HCV infection because of improved blood screening techniques.

3. Organ Transplants: Organ transplants can also spread HCV infection. Before transplantation, organs are tested for HCV, but there is still a risk of transmission if the donor had an HCV infection that was not detected.

4. Healthcare Exposure: Healthcare workers who are accidentally exposed to infected blood through needle sticks or other contact with infected fluids are at risk of contracting HCV.

5. Sexual Transmission: Sexual transmission of HCV is less common than other causes of transmission, but it is still possible. The risk of sexual transmission increases in people with multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or HIV.

6. Mother to Child Transmission: Mothers infected with HCV can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth. The risk of mother-to-child transmission can be reduced with antiviral treatment during pregnancy.

7. Tattoos and Piercings: Getting a tattoo or piercing from an unlicensed facility or with unsterilized equipment can increase the risk of HCV infection. However, licensed facilities with proper sterilization techniques are unlikely to spread the virus.

Treatments for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver, leading to liver damage or cirrhosis. It is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis C can be a chronic condition, and it can lead to serious health problems such as liver failure, liver cancer, and death. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are essential.

The treatment of hepatitis C has evolved significantly over the past few decades. In the past, hepatitis C was treated with a combination of interferon and ribavirin, which had significant side effects and a low success rate. However, the introduction of direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) has revolutionized the treatment of hepatitis C. DAAs are highly effective, have fewer side effects, and can cure hepatitis C in as little as eight weeks.

The goal of hepatitis C treatment is to achieve a sustained virologic response (SVR), which means that the virus is undetectable in the blood six months after the completion of treatment. Achieving SVR is associated with long-term health benefits, such as a reduced risk of liver damage and liver cancer.

The choice of treatment for hepatitis C depends on several factors, including the genotype of the virus, the stage of the liver disease, and the presence of other medical conditions. The most commonly used DAAs are sofosbuvir, ledipasvir, daclatasvir, velpatasvir, elbasvir, and grazoprevir. These drugs are usually used in combination with other DAAs to increase their effectiveness.

Before starting treatment, it is essential to evaluate the severity of liver damage through a liver biopsy or a non-invasive test such as a liver stiffness measurement. The treatment course typically lasts between 8 and 12 weeks, although it can be shorter or longer depending on the individual case.

Patients with hepatitis C should be closely monitored during treatment to ensure that the virus is being effectively eliminated and to manage any side effects of the medication. Side effects may include fatigue, headache, nausea, and muscle aches. However, these side effects are usually mild and go away on their own after the completion of treatment.

It is essential to note that while hepatitis C can be cured, it is still possible to get infected with the virus again. Therefore, it is crucial to take steps to prevent the transmission of the virus, such as avoiding the sharing of needles and practicing safe sex.

Symptoms

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Flu-like symptoms
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Swelling in the legs
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Easy bruising or bleeding
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Spider veins
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Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)
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Fatigue
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851
Abdominal pain
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Nausea
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Vomiting
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854
Loss of appetite

Confirmation Tests

- Blood test
- CT scan
- MRI

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