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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus (HCV) that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. It is a contagious disease that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. It is spread by contact with contaminated blood; for instance, from sharing unsterile needles or other sharp types of equipment.

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver which occurs commonly as a result of a viral infection. However, there are other possible causes of hepatitis. The liver being a vital organ tasked with processing nutrients, filtering the blood, and fighting infections among other roles, its damage affects its functions greatly.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis C

Hepatologists recommend screening for the HVC virus especially if one is at a high risk of exposure.

Tests for liver damage

  • Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE): MRE combines magnetic resonance imaging technology with patterns formed by sound waves bouncing off the liver to create a visual map showing gradients of stiffness throughout the liver. Stiff liver tissue indicates the presence of scarring of the liver as a result of chronic hepatitis C.
  • Transient elastography: This is a type of ultrasound that transmits vibrations into the liver and measures the speed of their dispersal through liver tissue to estimate stiffness.
  • Liver biopsy: A liver biopsy is a technique used for diagnosing abnormal liver conditions. It is an outpatient procedure that involves obtaining a piece of liver tissue for analysis. The obtained liver tissue allows your doctor to see if the liver is healthy or to better understand the extent of liver damage.
  • Blood tests: This involves a series of blood tests that are done to indicate the extent of fibrosis in an individual’s liver.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Yellow skin
  • Liver failure
  • Swollen blood vessel

Causes of Hepatitis C

Since people contact the HCV virus through blood-to-blood contact with contaminated blood, the following risk factors can easily lead to hepatitis C:

  • Receiving transfusions or organ transplants before blood screening
  • Having exposure to a needle prick, which is the most common way of contracting hepatitis C in people who work in health care
  • Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C
  • Sharing items that could have contact with blood, like toothbrushes and razors
  • Having unprotected sexual contact with an infected person
  • Getting a tattoo from an unregulated provider

Treatment of Hepatitis C

Cases of chronic and acute hepatitis C can be treated using direct-acting antiviral medicines (DAAs). Most people tolerate the medications, but they present side effects which include headache and fatigue.

DAAs medication work by targeting specific steps in the HCV life cycle to disrupt the reproduction of viral cells.

The DAAs to treat hepatitis C include:

  • Elbasvir/grazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • Glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Mavyret)
  • Ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni)
  • Pegintterferon alfa-2a (pegasys)
  • Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)

The genotype of the virus determines the medication and duration of treatment. Genotype 1a is the most prevalent. Recurrence of hepatitis C is quite common, thus after a successful treatment, the patient is advised to take steps in preventing another infection.

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