What is Hepatitis?
The word ‘hepatitis’ means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, heavy alcohol use, bacterial and viral infections and auto-immune conditions can all cause hepatitis
What is the difference between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C and Viral Hepatitis?
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are viral liver infections caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A is usually a short-term infection. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also begin as short-term infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body and causes chronic (long-term) infection. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B; however, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
How is hepatitis C spread?
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread when someone comes into contact with blood from an infected person. This can happen through:
►Sharing drug-injection equipment. Today, most people become infected with hepatitis C by sharing needles, syringes, or any other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.
►Birth. Approximately 6% of infants born to infected mothers will get hepatitis C
►Sex with an infected person. While uncommon, hepatitis C can spread during sex, though it has been reported more often among men who have sex with men.
►Unregulated tattoos or body piercings. Hepatitis C can spread when getting tattoos or body piercings in unlicensed facilities, informal settings, or with
►Sharing personal items. People can get infected from sharing glucose monitors, razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, and other items that may have come into contact with infected blood, even in amounts too small to see.
►Blood transfusions and organ transplants. Before widespread screening of the blood supply in 1992, hepatitis C was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Now, the risk of transmission to recipients of blood or blood products is extremely low.
Hepatitis C is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water.
What are the symptoms of acute (new) hepatitis C?
Many people newly infected with the hepatitis C virus don’t have symptoms, don’t look or feel sick, and therefore don’t know they are infected. For people who develop symptoms, they usually happen 2–12 weeks after exposure to the hepatitis C virus and can include yellow skin or eyes, not wanting to eat, upset stomach, throwing up, stomach pain, fever, dark urine, light-colored stool, joint pain, and feeling tired.
What are the symptoms of chronic (long-term) hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic hepatitis C don’t have any symptoms or have only general symptoms like chronic fatigue and depression. Many people eventually develop chronic liver disease, which can range from mild to severe and include cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Chronic liver disease in people with hepatitis C usually happens slowly, without any signs or symptoms, over several decades. Chronic hepatitis C virus infection is often not recognized until people are screened for blood donation or from an abnormal blood test found during a routine doctor’s visit.
Can a person spread hepatitis C without having symptoms?
Yes. If you are infected with the hepatitis C virus, you can spread it to others even if you have no symptoms.
Who should get tested for hepatitis C?
CDC recommends hepatitis C testing for:
- Are 18 years of age and older (get tested at least once in your lifetime)
- Are pregnant (get tested during each pregnancy)
- Currently inject drugs (get tested regularly)
- Have ever injected drugs, or used Intranasal cocaine, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have HIV
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
- Received donated blood or organs before July 1992
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- Have been exposed to blood from a person who has hepatitis C
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
What is the treatment for hepatitis C?
Treatment is recommended for all people, including non-pregnant women, with acute or chronic hepatitis C (including children aged ≥3 years and adolescents). Current treatments usually involve just 8–12 weeks of oral therapy (pills) and cure over 90% with few side effects.
If you are concerned or want to learn more about Hepatitis, please call the doctors at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates at 908-483-4000 today!