Hepatitis C is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus mainly occurs in Third World countries. A large proportion (50-90%) of infections with the hepatitis C virus cause chronic liver inflammation. The liver has an important function in the breakdown and excretion of waste products and is located in the abdominal cavity, right below the costal arch. Let’s see Hepatitis C is a serious liver infection symptoms.
Symptoms of hepatitis C.
Most people do not initially notice the liver inflammation caused by the hepatitis C virus. Sometimes vague complaints such as fatigue, abdominal pain or nausea exist. Rarely, there are clear signs of liver inflammation, such as jaundice. In most cases, hepatitis C is therefore discovered by accident, for example in blood donors (whose blood is always tested for hepatitis C) or in a blood test performed for another reason.
The virus remains in the liver in the majority of people without treatment. In one in four people, this leads to conditions in the liver, such as cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. These changes are usually noticeable after fifteen to twenty years. Complaints then arise from a malfunctioning liver such as jaundice, a distended abdomen, and spontaneous bleeding from the esophagus.
How does hepatitis C develop?
Hepatitis C is caused by an infection with the hepatitis C virus. You become infected with this virus when your blood comes in contact with the blood of someone who is carrying the virus. So the blood of a person infected with hepatitis C must have entered your bloodstream. This can happen, for example, through blood transfusions, tattoos, piercings, contaminated needles (for example with drug users) and contaminated medical equipment. Common use of razor blades and toothbrushes can also lead to contamination.
The risk of a child becoming infected by the mother during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding is small. The chance of becoming infected through sexual contact is almost zero.
When someone in your area has hepatitis C, you don’t need to interact with this person otherwise. No contamination can occur through the air or skin. You can simply touch, hug or kiss this person.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
Hepatitis C is a serious inflammation of the liver that can lead to changes in the liver, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. If you are diagnosed with acute hepatitis C, extensive research and possibly treatment will be started. Treatment takes place in special hepatitis treatment centers. Your illness will be reported to the GG&GD.
Investigation Often, hepatitis C is discovered by accident, for example during an investigation that is being conducted for another reason. The disease is also sometimes discovered during blood tests that are carried out (on the blood bank) with donated blood. Antibodies against hepatitis C are then found in the blood. The blood test is then repeated to obtain optimal certainty.
However, it is not always easy to detect the virus. People who are suspected to be infected with hepatitis C, but the blood tests do not show this, a repeat examination is done. The doctor will also do a physical examination, especially feeling for the liver. An ultrasound of the liver will be made in the hospital. On the basis of the results of the various examinations, the doctor can assess to what extent the virus is active and whether there is inflammation and/or damage to your liver. Sometimes it is necessary to remove and examine a small piece of the liver. This is a minor operation.
Treatment of Hepatitis C liver infection
Based on the results of the study, it is examined whether treatment is necessary. When the doctor decides to treat you, there are several options. Previously, this was often with a course of interferon. This medicine supports the body’s natural defenses against hepatitis C. Interferon is sometimes combined with another medicine that stimulates the action of interferon. Treatment consists of injections that you have to give yourself and is long-term. Side effects can occur. Regular blood tests will be performed during treatment to monitor the course of treatment. In recent years, more and more new articles have come onto the market. These drugs have fewer side effects and can be swallowed. The treatment duration is often shorter.
Reporting to the GG&GD Hepatitis C is one of the diseases that must be reported to the GG&GD (the Municipal Health Service). The GG&GD can also advise you on precautions you can take to avoid infecting others.
When to the doctor?
If you suspect you are infected with hepatitis C or have any of its features, it is important to contact your doctor. Timely treatment can prevent adverse effects from the infection.
What can you do about it yourself?
There is nothing you can do to cure the disease or to speed it up. There are a number of things to keep in mind when you have hepatitis C.
- Alcohol strengthens liver damage, therefore it is advisable to avoid alcoholic drinks.
- Before you use medicines – even if you have bought them yourself at the pharmacy or the drugstore – it is better to first consult your doctor about whether you can use them. The liver plays an important role in the absorption and excretion of medicines. A damaged liver can do this less well, which can lead to too low or too high concentrations of medicines that can endanger your health.
General advice and precautions
There is not (yet) a vaccine against hepatitis C. The chance that you will be infected during a blood transfusion is very small because every donation is checked for the presence of hepatitis C.
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