It’s estimated that nearly 300 million people are living with Hepatitis C worldwide. Of these individuals, nearly 8,000 to 10,000 will die each year from complications associated with the Hepatitis C virus. The new incidents of transmission have declined slightly since the disease’s height during the 1980s, although thousands of youth across the United States are still being infected by this devastating killer each year. Learn about the symptoms of Hepatitis C, as well as how the disease is transmitted and how to protect yourself from becoming infected below.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can affect different people in several different ways. Some will perish within a few years of acute liver failure, while others will thrive for 20 to 30 years, only to develop cirrhosis, or severe scarring, of the liver. In general, there are several signs and symptoms of a Hepatitis C infection, including:
- Cloudy urine
- Right upper abdominal pain
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Light-colored stools
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin
Unfortunately, many infected with chronic Hepatitis C will remain asymptomatic for several years, and the disease will only become evident once cirrhosis has developed. Nearly 10 percent of the newly infected with develop jaundice, but this is generally only temporary.
How the Disease is Transmitted
Hepatitis C is caused by the HCV virus, and there are several individuals who are at greater risk of contracting this disease, including:
- Persons who have sexual contact with a patient infected with the HCV virus. The risk becomes greater when the individual has multiple sexual partners, or already possess a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV.
- Individuals who’ve been on kidney dialysis for a long period
- Those who are exposed to infected blood on a regular basis at work, such as health care employees
- Individuals who received a blood transfusion prior to July 1992
- Chronic drug users who shared dirty needles with infected individuals
There are several less common forms of transmission, including infants born to Hepatitis C-infected mothers, an infection caused by dirty acupuncture or tattoo equipment and sharing personal items, such as razors, with an infected individual.
How You Can Protect Yourself
There is currently no vaccination against the HCV virus, although there are several ways individuals can protect themselves from infection.
- If you’re a healthcare worker, follow the precautions laid out by your employer very closely
- Never injected yourself with illegal drugs, and especially do not share needles
- Ask your future sexual partners if they’ve been tested for the Hepatitis C virus. No matter what the person’s answer, it’s always wise to practice safe sex
- Use caution when getting acupuncture or tattoos. Examine the practitioner’s equipment and don’t hesitate to walk away if they’re hygienic practices are questionable
If you, or a loved one, are suffering with Hepatitis C, or any other illness including cirrhosis, chronic liver failure and liver cancer, don’t hesitate to seek a support group in your area. Joining these groups will help you manage the stress of your illness, which will ultimately improve your health and quality of life.