Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is spread when you come in contact with blood contaminated with the virus.
130–150 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C infection. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Approximately 500 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases (WHO).
Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, even death. It is considered by the Mayo Clinic to be the most serious of all.
Symptoms and signs of hepatitis C
This infection often doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. Symptoms and signs can include:
- feeling tired
- developing a fever
- nausea or vomiting
- having a poor appetite
- joint or muscle pain
- pain in your stomach
- a yellowing in your eyes or skin
- abnormalities in urine or bowel movements
According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of chronic infection typically become evident after years and are the result of liver damage caused by the virus. These may initially include the symptoms of acute infection. Then, over time, signs and symptoms may include:
- Bleeding easily
- Itchy skin
- Swelling in your legs
- Bruising easily
- Weight loss
- Fluid accumulation in your abdomen
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
Notice: Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of the above signs and symptoms.
You can help prevent potential liver damage by acting early.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent this infection is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs.
Consider taking up safer sex practices. If you get tattoos or piercings, make sure that the employees use clean and sterile needles.
Hepatitis C is not spread through breast milk, food or water or by casual contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing food or drinks with an infected person.