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Hepatitis Type C

Hepatitis is a contagious viral infection of the liver. There are three common types: A, B and C. You have Type C. This disease is usually passed when you come in contact with blood from a person who has the virus. The most common form of transmission today is IV drug use. Sharing snorting straws can also expose you to another's blood. If you received a blood transfusion before 1992 (before there was widespread testing for this virus) you might have been exposed. Having multiple sexual partners is also a risk factor. However, the chance of getting the virus from an infected person in your home or from an infected sexual partner in a long-term monogamous (single partner) relationship is very low.

In most cases, there are no symptoms during the initial infection. Mild symptoms occur in about one-third of cases. They include fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea. Hepatitis C infection becomes "chronic" in over half (55-85%) of the cases. This means that you carry the virus and can spread the disease to others. Most of those with chronic infection (70%) will develop some degree of chronic liver disease. For many, this may cause no symptoms or long-term effects, but there is a 20% chance of getting cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver 10-20 years later. (Heavy alcohol drinkers and persons with chronic Hepatitis B infection are at greatest risk for long term problems from this disease.)

Therefore, all persons with Hepatitis C need to be checked by their doctor at least once a year to be sure the inflammation is not getting worse. There is no vaccine yet for Hepatitis C. However, there is an effective treatment that can be used by patients with signs of worsening liver disease. You can discuss this further with your doctor.

Home Care:

  1. A diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables is best for you and your liver. Small, frequent meals are best when nausea is present.

  2. If you are having symptoms of hepatitis, you may fatigue easily. Get lots of rest. Don't exert yourself too much.

  3. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) can be toxic to the liver in high doses, with prolonged use or in the presence of existing liver damage.

    • Persons with acute (recently diagnosed) hepatitis should not take these medicines unless approved by your doctor.

    • Persons with chronic (long-standing) hepatitis and advanced liver disease should not take these medicines.

    • Persons with only mild or no liver damage from chronic hepatitis may take acetaminophen in low doses (2 grams per 24 hours). Do not take anti-inflammatory medicines. Never take acetaminophen with alcohol since this increases the risk of liver damage.

  4. Alcohol stresses the liver and should be avoided for several months until all symptoms have cleared and liver tests are normal.

Preventing Spread Of Hepatitis Virus:

This virus is most often spread by blood contact. Therefore, never share needles, syringes, tattoo equipment or snorting straws. Do not try to donate blood, organs, tissues or semen. Do not share razors or tooth brushes. If you need medical or dental care, inform the staff that you have hepatitis so that additional measures may be taken to prevent infection. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your physician. There is a 4% chance that Hepatitis C can be transmitted to the fetus, although it is not passed in the breast milk.

The risk of spreading the virus through sex is low, especially in monogamous relationships. Standard safe-sex practices, including the use of latex condoms, are advised if you have sex with more than one partner. There is no need to change your sexual practices if you are in a long-term, monogamous relationship. Because the risk of household spread is low, there is no need to avoid close contact or sharing of meals or utensils. There are no restrictions needed with respect to employment.

Follow Up

with your doctor or as directed by our staff. Ask about Hepatitis A and B vaccines. You are at greater risk of getting these types of the disease, and they could cause more damage to your liver. Your sexual partner should contact their doctor and have a test to see if they have been infected with the virus.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Frequent vomiting

  • Weight loss from poor appetite

  • Increase in abdominal pain or swelling

  • Increasing drowsiness or confusion

  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting

  • New or increasing yellow color of skin or eyes

  • Bleeding from the gums or nose, easy bruising

 

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