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What is Hepatitis C?
What makes Hepatitis C dangerous is the fact that even though you are infected with this virus, you will, most likely, have no symptoms. In the meantime, an infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus can attack your liver leading to its inflammation. While you are unaware of a hepatitis C infection, your liver may be damaged, and the damage may not show up until routine tests are performed on you decades later.
As many as 3.5 million people in the U.S. are infected with the disease. Since most of them have few symptoms, they simply don’t know they are infected. Many forms of the hepatitis C virus exist, however, the most common in the U.S. is type 1. Of all the forms, none is more serious than the others, but each respond to treatment differently.
Hepatitis C Symptoms
Although there are usually no symptoms for Hepatitis, you might notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Jaundice: This condition causes yellow skin and eyes and dark urine as well.
- Appetite loss
- Pain in stomach
How Can You Get Hepatitis C?
You can contract Hepatitis C through body fluids or blood of a person infected with the virus. You can catch this virus in any of the following ways:
- The sharing of needles and drugs
- Being stuck with infected needles
- Having sex with several partners or by having rough sex especially if you have an HIV infection or an STD.
Casual contact, food or water does not spread Hepatitis C.
Who Should be Tested for the Disease?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you be tested for the disease, if you:
- Received blood from a donor with the disease.
- Had an organ transplant or blood transfusion before July 1992.
- Have injected drugs at any time.
- Have HIV.
- Have been on kidney dialysis long-term.
- Were born between 1945 and 1965.
- Were born when your mother had hepatitis C.
- Have had abnormal liver tests or have had symptoms of liver disease.
- Received concentrates for blood-clotting that are used in treating blood disorders before 1987.
Hepatitis C Virus Tests
At your first exam at your doctor’s office, he or she will question you in order to know your past medical history. After an initial physical exam, you doctor will check the enzymes of your liver in order to determine whether they are high. If these enzymes are high, this can be considered a sign that you may have the hepatitis C virus.
If your doctor thinks that there is a possibility that you have the hepatitis C virus, he or she will order the following:
- Test for hepatitis C virus: A blood test is performed to check as to whether you have antibodies in your blood that fight against the hepatitis C virus. If the antibodies are present, it means that you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus.
- Your doctor will also have your blood tested for the genetic material of the hepatitis C virus in order to determine whether you are indeed infected with the virus.
- Your doctor will also order a blood test to determine the genotype or kind of hepatitis virus you have. The genotype will determine if you need to be treated as well as what is the best treatment for you.
Hepatitis C Home Test
You can find out whether you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus by purchasing the Home Access Hepatitis C Check kit at your local drugstore. However, it is essential that you discuss the results with your doctor.
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