Most people who contract a disease will very quickly develop symptoms that make them aware of it. This is true of nearly all diseases, but Hepatitis C is one of the exceptions. It is possible to have Hep C but be unaware of it due to there being no identifiable symptoms. This is particularly true of Chronic Hepatitis C, which will often continue unchecked for years until the resulting liver damage becomes impossible to ignore. Liver failure is the most serious of long term Hep C symptoms, but what are the signs of Hep C that are seen or experienced when the disease is newly contracted?
We’ll look at this here, with the hope that understanding the symptoms of Hepatitis C may lead to people getting treatment as early as possible for the best recovery outcomes. This is important, as your liver is one of the most essential organs in the human body when it comes to detoxification and the maintenance of overall health and wellness.
Signs of a Hepatitis C Infection
Every Hep C infection starts with an acute phase, and then moves into a long-term ‘chronic’ stage where the deterioration is mostly seen in the liver itself. It’s best to catch the infection when it’s in the acute phase, and identifying tell-tale symptoms make it possible for most people to realize they need to see their physician. So without going on any further, here’s your quick reference list to answer ‘what are the signs of Hep C’:
- Bleeding more easily
- Bruising more easily
- Fatiguing more easily, and staying fatigued after resting
- A reduced appetite
- Dark-colored urine
- Jaundice – a condition which involves yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes
- Itchy skin (pruritus)
- Abdomen fluid build-up (ascites)
- Swelling in the lower legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech resulting from hepatic encephalopathy
- Spider-like blood vessels being seen on the surface of the skin (spider angiomas)
Whether or not you develop any symptoms will depend on your specific physiology, and some of them (chronic fatigue, for example) are seen in nearly all Hep C sufferers. However, keep in mind again that for some people they will have no Hep C signs at all and may remain unaware of having the disease for a long time.
When this happens, the possibility of severe health concerns increases and the patient may develop:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Liver cancer
- Liver failure
All of which have the potential to be fatal if not caught in time. Being informed about the signs of Hep C is highly recommended for people who are increasingly at risk of exposure to it. Which leads to our next part of this article – what are the risk factors for Hepatitis C?
Risk Factors for Hep C
There are some people who will be more likely to contract Hep C based on their lifestyle choices and other factors. First and foremost among them, unfortunately, are illicit drug users who use needles or other paraphernalia that are frequently exposed to blood. The Hep C virus is spread by exposure to contaminated blood, and while the risk would be minimized if these people used their needles, spoons, and other tools by themselves the fact is that often they share them with other users.
Another unfortunate reality is that the lifestyle these people tend to lead means they are less likely to be proactive in determining what the signs of Hep C and pursuing treatment if they believe they have contracted it. In these instances, friends and family members can help look for the signs of Hep C with these people.
It may be the case that both the individual themselves or the people who are close to them do not identify the condition until long term Hep C symptoms are seen.
Other causes of Hep C include:
- Body piercing and tattooing when performed with unsterilized equipment
- Unprotected sex
- Blood transfusions or organ replacements (particularly if your surgery was performed before 1990)
Effective Hepatitis C Treatments
The best way to treat Hep C is to take a DAA antiviral drug for as long as specified by your physician. DAA (direct action antiviral) meds are proven to work at knocking out the Hep C virus, but they do have a pair of drawbacks when it comes to how to disinfect Hepatitis C. The first is that these medications tend to be quite expensive, and the second is that for many patients they’ll need to be taking them for a good many months or longer before they are completely free of the Hep C virus.
After you get your response to what are the signs of Hep C, your next question will likely be what are the most effective drugs for treating Hep C? As mentioned above, all of them belong to the DAA class of antivirals and one of the most common of them is Sovaldi (Sofosbuvir). However, be aware that this medication and others like it tends to be very expensive, so it is going to be preferable if you can have a portion of the cost covered by your health insurance.
Outside of using antivirals, the number of choices you have for how to disinfect Hep C is pretty much slim to none. It is true that some people experience what is called SPV (spontaneous viral clearance), and this means that their Hepatitis C actually ends up clearing on it own, without any medication or other treatment required. However, this is quite rare and estimates are that it occurs in less than 15% of cases of the disease.
It’s true that the best way to treat Hep C is to be proactive in preventing it in the first place. This is done by avoiding the risk factors listed above, and remaining vigilant about using anything that may have traces of another person’s blood on it. The cure for Hep C most certainly exists, but like anything of this nature, you’d be best to focus on avoiding these situations and skipping what can be a very concerning infectious disease.
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Medically reviewed by Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D.
Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D., is a registered pharmacist who has worked in clinical and retail settings providing drug education for healthcare professionals and patients alike. He graduated Cum Laude from the University of Florida where he earned a Doctorate of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). He piloted a longitudinal clinical research program and completed his clinical internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Read More >>
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