Hepatitis C, Life Threatening if not Diagnosed and Treated
Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems. Approximately 60,000 people die every year from Hepatitis C related liver disease.
- Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus: the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
- The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through unsafe injection practices; inadequate sterilization of medical equipment in some health-care settings; and unscreened blood and blood products.
- 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.
- 350 000 to 500 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.
- Antiviral medicines can cure hepatitis C infection, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.
- Antiviral treatment is successful in 50–90% of persons treated, depending on the treatment used, and has also been shown to reduce the development of liver cancer and cirrhosis.
- There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, however research in this area is ongoing.
Symptoms: Most people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed. In persons without symptoms, Hepatitis C is often detected during routine blood tests to measure liver function and liver enzyme (protein produced by the liver) level.
Who should get tested for it?
Talk to your doctor about being tested for Hepatitis C if any of the following are true:
You are a current or former injection drug user, even if you injected only one time or many years ago.
You were treated for a blood clotting problem
You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant
You are on long-term hemodialysis treatment.
You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needle stick or other sharp object injury.You are infected with HIV.
Screening and diagnosis– Due to the fact that acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, early diagnosis of the HCV infection is rare. In those people who go on to develop chronic HCV infection, the infection may remain undiagnosed, often until serious liver damage has developed.
HCV infection is diagnosed in 2 steps:
- Screening for anti-HCV antibodies with a serological test identifies people who have been infected with the virus.
- If the test is positive for anti-HCV antibodies, a nucleic acid test for HCV RNA is needed to confirm chronic HCV infection because about 15–45% of people infected with HCV spontaneously clear the infection by a strong immune response without the need for treatment.
Although no longer infected, they will still test positive for anti-HCV antibodies.After a person has been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C infection, they should have an assessment of the degree of liver damage (fibrosis and cirrhosis). This can be done by liver biopsy or through a variety of non-invasive tests.
In addition, these persons should have a laboratory test to identify the genotype of the hepatitis C strain. There are 6 genotypes of the HCV and they respond differently to treatment. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to be infected with more than one genotype. The degree of liver damage and virus genotype are used to guide treatment decisions and management of the disease.
Treatment: Treatment of chronic HCV infection has 2 goals. The first is to achieve sustained eradication of HCV (ie, sustained virologic response [SVR]), which is defined as the persistent absence of HCV RNA in serum 6 months or more after completing antiviral treatment. The second goal is to prevent progression to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and decompensated liver disease requiring liver transplantation.
Antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C should be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, treatment is widely recommended for patients with elevated serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels who meet the following criteria :
Age greater than 18 years Positive HCV antibody and serum HCV RNA test results Compensated liver disease (eg, no hepatic encephalopathy or ascites) Acceptable hematologic and biochemical indices (hemoglobin at least 13 g/dL for men and 12 g/dL for women; neutrophil count >1500/mm 3, serum creatinine < 1.5 mg/dL) Willingness to be treated and to adhere to treatment requirements No contraindications for treatment
If left untreated the condition can be life threatenin. It may lead to the following
- Liver Cirrhosis
- Liver Cancer
- Liver Failure
And eventually LIVER TRANSPLANT will be the last option
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