Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
May 6, 2021
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The medical term “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. When the liver becomes inflamed, its overall function could be impaired. Hepatitis C is a short-term virus for some people, referred to as acute hepatitis C, but for many, it becomes a long-term infection, known as chronic hepatitis C.
Chronic hepatitis C can cause critical health problems such as liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. HCV has different forms, known as genotypes. The Mayo Clinic states, “Seven distinct HCV genotypes and more than 67 subtypes have been identified. The most common HCV genotype in the United States is type 1.” Treatment varies among the different genotypes, though the course of the virus is generally the same.
Hepatitis C can be a daunting thing to face, which is why getting professional medical support is crucial. Our partners at PlushCare, a top telehealth company, support patients by providing long term treatment plans, and can even write prescriptions online. Click here to make an appointment with a PlushCare doctor.
Hepatitis C is more of a silent virus initially, as symptoms are not likely to occur until severe damage has happened to the liver.
However, symptoms that could occur include:
If symptoms are to occur, they usually appear within two weeks to three months of exposure. Some people with chronic hepatitis C can develop medical conditions not limited to the liver.
According to the CDC, these conditions include:
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the bodily fluid of an infected person, such as blood. The most common mode of hepatitis C transmission is through drug-use or birth to a mother infected with HCV. Due to the virus being spread through bodily fluid, the sharing of needles or syringes puts someone at a high risk of contracting, or spreading, hepatitis C.
The virus can also be spread by sharing other tools that can be exposed to infected blood, such as razors or toothbrushes. The spread can additionally come from receiving a tattoo or piercing in an unclean environment. Although sex with a person with hepatitis C is an unlikely and inefficient way of transmission, HIV-infected men who have sex with men have an increased risk. Hepatitis C is not spread through the sharing of food or water or any other physical touch.
Some people are at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis C. Those people include:
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, as it has been challenging to develop when there are so many genotypes and subtypes of the virus. However, your healthcare provider will most likely recommend you receive the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines. These vaccinations do not affect whether you can get hepatitis C, but preventing other viruses that affect the liver will help protect the liver from further injury.
A previous hepatitis C infection does not mean that you are not at risk of contracting it again. It is possible to get infected with a different strain of the hepatitis C virus after recovering from an infection.
The CDC recommends hepatitis C screening for all adults over 18 and pregnant women. People who are at a higher risk should be tested for HCV regularly.
Other ways to help protect yourself from contracting hepatitis C are:
Call your healthcare provider if you think you have recently been exposed or are experiencing any symptoms after a known exposure. You can take tests to find out whether you are infected or not. If you or someone you know has been exposed, do not hesitate to take action and get tested or help as soon as possible.
The test can come back “non-reactive” or “negative,” which means you are currently not infected with the hepatitis C virus. The test can also come back “reactive” or “positive,” which means you have been infected with the virus at some point. A reactive or positive result does not necessarily mean that you are currently infected with HCV but that you have previously been infected and still possess the antibodies.
If your results come back positive or reactive, you must get another test called the nucleic acid test for HCV RNA (otherwise known as the PCR test) to determine whether you are currently infected. These results will come back either negative or positive.
HCV can be treated with antiviral medications. The type of medication and length of treatment depends on the specific genotype. Regardless of genotype, most people with chronic hepatitis C can be cured through oral therapy (pills). There is a small portion of people that can clear the virus without any treatment. However, it is better to seek treatment from your healthcare provider.
It is vital to maintain a healthy lifestyle while treating hepatitis C, and after the virus clears from your body. Stop alcohol consumption to ensure the already damaged liver is not being overworked or further injured.
A great place to start seeking treatment for hepatitis C is through telehealth. Our partners at PlushCare are a great option. They were recently named one of the top startups of 2021 by Forbes, and offer top-tier telehealth services.
Hepatitis C can be cured with a combination of antivirals and time, and doctors at PlushCare can help you through that journey. They can diagnose, create a treatment plan, and even prescribe the antiviral medication you need, all online.
Click here to make an appointment with a PlushCare doctor.
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