Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The hepatitis C infection can range from mild illness lasting a few weeks to a lifetime. The hepatitis C virus is a blood borne virus that gets most commonly transmitted to others through unsafe practices.
Several people with chronic hepatitis C infection later develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. Although antiviral medicines help people with hepatitis C, there is still no vaccine available for the condition.
Most people infected with hepatitis C virus don’t show any signigicant signs or symptoms for several years. But, even when there are no significant symptoms, a person with hepatitis C virus may develop liver damage and pass the virus to others. Around one in four people who get infected with hepatitis C usually get rid of the virus naturally. However, others may carry the infection for a long time. After some years they may even develop severe liver damage, cirrhosis. In some cases, cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
How am I at risk for hepatitis C?
Since hepatitis C is a blood borne virus, it is mainly spread through contact with the blood of a person who has hepatitis C. On the other hand you can’t catch it through everyday contact such as touching or kissing, or through sharing plates, cups or kitchen utensils. Hepatitis C can be passed on by sharing equipment for injecting drugs.
Even blood transfusion done several years ago could spread hepatitis C however now all blood is screened for hepatitis C. In rare cases, hepatitis C can also be passed from a mother with hepatitis C to her baby, before or during the birth, through unprotected sex with someone who has the virus, by having a tattoo or piercing or acupuncture with equipment that is not sterile. Even medical or dental procedures can spread hepatitis C if the equipments are not sterilized properly. Sharing razors or toothbrushes which have been contaminated with blood can also put you at risk for hepatitis C. Contact your doctor if you think you could have been in contact with the virus.
What to do?
Get yourself tested and treated. More than half of the people infected with hepatitis C are treated through medication courses. If you have the virus, stop drinking alcohol to reduce the damage to your liver. Don’t inject drugs and ensure the equipments have been sterilized before getting a tattoo or piercing. If you, or your sexual partner, have hepatitis C, always use confoms during sex. Don’t share razors or tooth brushes as they could have blood on them.
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