Hepatitis C – What is it?
Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver. It is caused by the Hepatitis C virus, commonly called HCV. It is a blood-borne infection, which means that it is spread through blood or blood products. Once the Hepatitis C virus enters a person’s blood it begins to reproduce itself, attacking the liver. Hepatitis C is known sometimes as the “Silent Epidemic” since a person may be infected with the HCV virus for many years without any knowledge or even symptoms. By the time symptoms appear the liver may have sustained severe damage.
There is an initial acute stage of Hepatitis C and there is chronic Hepatitis C. Acute Hepatitis C may last approximately six months. While many patients may have no symptoms, some patients may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, muscle or joint pain, yellowish eyes and skin, and abdominal pain. The abdominal pain may indicate that the liver has become swollen or tender.
The incubation period for Hepatitis C is 2 weeks to 6 months and many people exhibit no symptoms. As most patients (75%-85%) are unable to fight off the HCV virus without intervention, the disease then moves on to the chronic stage. Chronic Hepatitis C is of extremely long duration, usually progressing over a period of 10 to 30 years. During this stage, the disease may lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. In some cases, it can lead to fatal conditions.
Hepatitis C – Who is at risk?
Hepatitis C may be transmitted due to risk factors related to the exchange of infectious blood. Nevertheless, individuals concerned about the possibility of having contracted the virus should determine if they fit into the following risk categories:
- persons who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992;
- persons having received treatment for blood-clotting disorders before 1987;
- people on long-term hemodialysis;
- persons who have injected or been injected with a needle in the use of street drugs such as heroin (or shared a straw while sniffing cocaine);
- persons who engage in anal sex or have multiple sex partners;
- persons who treat injured patients such as healthcare workers, police and emergency medical workers;
- persons who have undergone body piercing or tattoos with unsterile equipment;
- persons who live with someone who is infected with the HCV virus and share razors or toothbrushes;
- persons whose mother had Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C – What is the treatment?
Patients with Hepatitis C may live a full life if they take proper care of themselves. If a person suspects that they may have Hepatitis C or has engaged in any of the at-risk activities, he or she should begin by having a blood test. Once it has been determined that the patient has the disease, other tests will be prescribed. A liver biopsy will often be performed; a tiny portion of the liver is extracted through a needle which will be examined to determine the health of the liver.
Combination therapy of antivirals (Interferon and Ribavirin) is often used as treatment of Hepatitis C, although there are new antiviral drugs being developed. How well these medicines work depends on how damaged your liver is, how much virus you have in your liver, and what type of hepatitis C you have.
Hepatitis C – Where is the Hope?
Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Isn’t that a wonderful promise? For those of us who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, this promise is one you can rely on. Jesus also said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). No earthly ailment is too big for Jesus Christ and there is not an emotion or struggle he hasn’t gone through. If you are feeling burdened beyond what you can carry, Jesus is waiting for you with arms wide open. Won’t you let him carry your load?
Resources: Webmd.com, Mayoclinic.com, who.int
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