Hepatitis C: the Facts Everyone Should Know
Hepatitis C is a relatively new medical condition – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of its dangers. Discovered in 1989 according to the CDC¹, hepatitis C is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, leaving most people without any recognizable symptoms.
And baby boomers are particularly susceptible to hepatitis because they often aren’t tested for this condition. Anyone can contract hepatitis C, which is why it’s important to know the earliest symptoms so you can get a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.
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Early Warning Signs of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C causes damage to the liver. It manifests in two ways: acute and chronic. Acute hepatitis C generates symptoms that last six months or less while chronic hepatitis C causes prolonged damage. Acute outbreaks can lead to chronic hepatitis C if your body can’t get rid of the virus.
The earlier you detect the virus, the greater your chances of making a full recovery. However, Healthline² reports 80 percent of acute cases are never diagnosed because no symptoms are experienced. Without testing, impaired liver function is hard to diagnose.
The causes of hepatitis C can include infection, medication, toxins, and autoimmune diseases. Hepatitis C can be contracted from blood products, sharing needles, and sexual contact. The warning signs of Hepatitis C include:
- Dark-colored urine
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Clay-colored feces
You should also be cautious and get tested if you’ve ever experienced any of the following, as these are high-risk factors for hepatitis C:
- Received a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or blood products before 1992
- Got a tattoo where the needles might not have been sterilized
- Used recreational drugs (even if only once)
- Shared personal items that might retain blood such as razors or toothbrushes
- Became infected with HIV/AIDS
- Were a child of an infected mother
- Used intranasal drugs
- Were incarcerated
How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed?
It can take anywhere from six months to 10 years before the symptoms of hepatitis C become recognizable. Simple blood tests as part of a regular medical examination can diagnose the condition.
Once a blood test returns a potential hepatitis C diagnosis, your doctor might also want to perform a biopsy to determine how much damage your liver has sustained.
After exposure to the virus, the CDC³ reports that it takes between four to 10 weeks for the virus to show up in blood tests. If your blood tests positive for the HCV antibody, your doctor will perform additional testing, such as further blood tests and advanced tests like MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans.
How Is Hepatitis C Treated?
Hepatitis C can be cured. According to the CDC⁴, about 15 percent to 20 percent of people who experience acute hepatitis C recover and get rid of the virus completely. Others may develop chronic hepatitis C, which is also treatable.
The following are some of the remedies available:
Antivirals: Antiviral medicines work by targeting the hepatitis C virus. Each drug works differently based on how they interfere with protein synthesis within the virus, but all antiviral medicines usually remove the virus completely within 12 weeks.
Home Remedies: Many people also turn to home remedies, but these mostly work to relieve symptoms and promote general good health. No alternative medicine has proven successful to treat or remove the hepatitis C virus. Three of the most accepted home remedies include:
- Castor Oil: Castor oil packs applied directly to the skin over the liver can reduce inflammation, prevent cell damage and promote the healthy growth of new liver cells.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): This amino acid turns into glutathione after passing through the digestive system, which is the body’s most powerful antioxidant. Also called NAC, it triggers a sustained viral response when patients are being treated with antiviral medications.
- Milk Thistle: Supplements containing the herb milk thistle can help to strengthen liver cell walls and to prevent cell wall damage.
Treating Hepatitis C Responsibly
Getting tested and treated when you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis C is important because the disease can easily be spread through contact with others. You might not see any symptoms, but you could be a carrier who infects others. Hepatitis C is a difficult illness to diagnose, making regular testing the only way to 100 percent sure whether or not you’re infected.
Remember, baby boomers in particular are susceptible to hepatitis C – and you may not even show a single symptom of the condition. Ask your doctor for regular blood tests and hepatitis C screenings so you can catch this condition before it progress and causes significant liver damage.
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