Hepatitis C is a viral disease affecting the largest organ in the body, the liver. It is the most common blood-borne disease in the country. It is also a major reason for a kidney transplant in the western world. Hepatitis transmits through Injectable Drug Use (IDU) and sharing of needles. The hepatitis C virus survives at room temperature for about three weeks.
The malignancy ranges from acute to becoming chronic in 80% of the cases. It is a silent killer as people do not realize they are affected by the virus. So, they often unknowingly pass on the infection to others. Early diagnosis can prevent chronic infection. The symptoms of hepatitis C coincide with final stage liver problems. Chronic hepatitis C over a span of 20 years leads to cirrhosis.
Identifying the signs
The symptoms of hepatitis C are invisible, so it’s called a silent epidemic. The patient isn’t aware that he or she is affected by the virus. Acute hepatitis C is left undiagnosed due to the absence of symptoms. The onset of early symptoms of hepatitis C is 4 to 15 weeks.
When the symptoms of hepatitis C occur, you cannot distinguish it from normal viral infections. Abdominal discomfort, nausea, fever, and fatigue are common symptoms of hepatitis C infection. You can see yellow skin like in jaundice and clay stool.
An acute hepatitis C develops into chronic one if the virus remains untreated for over a year. Patients with chronic disorder complain of abdominal aches, nausea, and fatigue.
A continuous sufferance of chronic hepatitis C causes scarring or fibrosis. The fibrosis further advances to complete scarring or cirrhosis of the liver. It can further cause liver failure and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
The hepatitis C virus
The transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) happens only through blood. It doesn’t involve any contact infection, insect bite or respiratory disease.
HCV is an RNA virus that is otherwise dormant but replicates the cell once it’s injected. The chronic infection shows trillions of HCV circulating in the body. Six HCV genotype (1 to 6) and 70 subtypes of the virus have been identified so far.
IDU and sharing needles are responsible for the transmission of infection. No amount of cleaning with alcohol or soap can rinse off the virus. Sterilization of needles and drying it for days haven’t helped either. The symptoms of hepatitis C shows up in the first two years for 30% people.
Symptoms of hepatitis C
The symptoms of hepatitis C are not very evident and do not show up for a long time. They remain dormant for years until the damage is immense. By the time the symptoms of hepatitis C surfaces, the liver is almost charred.
The symptoms in case of acute hepatitis C are synonymous with that of jaundice or any viral infection. The patient experiences fatigues, yellow skin color, and abdominal pain. In some rare cases, acute hepatitis C was identified early. Preventives and medicines administered on time saved them from chronic infection. Acute hepatitis C responds effectively to antiviral medications.
Here are some other prominent symptoms of hepatitis C.
- Bleeding is common when you suffer from hepatitis C. There is a lot of blood loss making you weak and anemic.
- Bruises are also frequent when you suffer from this infection. A simple cut can lead to complications.
- You feel tired and fatigued that hampers your everyday life. You feel weak, and there is a loss of energy due to anemia.
- There is a tremendous loss of appetite.
- A very prominent symptom of hepatitis C is discoloration of the skin. The skin turns pale yellow just like in the case of jaundice. The paleness is noticeable in the eyes and the fingernails.
- You know your liver is functioning well if you pass clear urine. If you find your urine saturated and dense, you need to be careful. A common symptom of hepatitis C is dense yellow colored urine.
- Another potent symptom of hepatitis C is itchiness of the skin. The skin loses its texture and becomes pale and dry. This makes the skin itchy.
- Ascites is a condition caused by a severe liver disease where a lot of fluid builds up in the abdomen. Due to this, you feel the loss of appetite and the stomach bloats up.
- Apart from nausea, abdominal pain and bloating, your feet swell up too. This is another important symptom of hepatitis C. So be cautious if you find your feet in unusual shape.
- Due to the loss of appetite and fluid buildup, you suffer major weight loss. Weight loss is a common symptom of hepatitis C found in most patients.
- Another symptom of hepatitis C is hepatic encephalopathy. It’s a state of confusion where you feel drowsy, and the speech is slurred.
- Patients suffer from spider angiomas which are spider-like web patches on the skin.