Hepatitis C is a disease caused by HCV. The diagnosis most often happens after several decades after infection. Unfortunately, by then the virus had enough time to destroy the liver. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A simple test is enough to find out if HCV has ever been present in your body, allowing you to take steps to detect and remove it from the bloodstream before it does serious harm.
Tattooing, piercing, tartar removal, manicure or medical treatment can be dangerous if you do not follow disinfection procedures, sterilization, and change of disposable gloves after each patient.
This may cause HCV infection. Hepatitis C most often does not give characteristic symptoms, and those that appear, resemble the flu. Meanwhile, an undetected illness, after many years, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Most people infected by HCV do not know about their illness.
HCV stays infectious in dried blood for a few days. Blood to blood contact is needed for infection. In the past, a large part of the infections took place in medical facilities – during endoscopy, Intravenous therapy, transfusions, transplants, and other surgical and dental procedures.
HCV was identified in 1989, but it was not until 1992 that tests detecting it from the blood appeared and proper procedures were implemented. Currently, the virus infection happens mainly during getting tattoos, piercings or other treatments, during which the skin continuity is interrupted, in facilities that do not respect the principles of hygiene and sterilization.
The source of infection can also be intravenous drug use, even incidental. HCV can also spread from mother to child, during pregnancy and delivery. Breastfeeding is safe. The risk of infection by sexual contact is assessed as negligible but increases in the case of damage and inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals, anus and oral cavity.
The HCV infection in most cases progresses without any characteristic symptoms, which means that for many years you can be developing viral hepatitis C, and not be aware of it. In the acute form, this disease can manifest itself in abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, lack of appetite, less often jaundice.
Most often, however, there are no symptoms. In some people infected with HCV, the body itself can get rid of the virus. Then the trace of its presence in our body will be shown by anti-HCV antibodies, while the genetic material of the virus (HCV RNA) will no longer be present. Unfortunately, most patients develop a chronic form of the disease in which the symptoms are not severe or do not occur at all.
However, there is damage to the liver parenchyma, which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, failure of this organ, and the development of primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). If the disease progresses to a chronic phase, six months after the infection, both anti-HCV antibodies and the genetic material of the virus will be present in the patient’s body.
To detect HCV infection, a blood test should be performed to detect anti-HCV antibodies. They arise in the body if it comes into contact with the virus. If the test result is positive, it means that the subject had contact with the virus, but it is not necessarily chronically infected with HCV. However, he must do an extra blood test to detect the presence of the virus. Only the positive result of this test, i.e., the determination of the presence of HCV RNA in the blood, made at least six months after infection, indicates chronic hepatitis C virus. The HCV RNA test allows the virus to be detected after approximately two weeks after infection. A negative result of the HCV RNA test shows that the subject is not currently infected with HCV, even if the anti-HCV antibody was previously found in the person’s blood.
Only one in ten people infected with HCV is aware of their infection. Most often, people learn about HCV infection when they become an honorary donor or if they are tested for the presence of a virus before the scheduled surgery.
In the group of people with the highest risk of HCV infection there are people who had transfused blood before 1992, were at least three times hospitalized, underwent surgery, were delivered through cesarean section, or at least once injected drugs into the vein.
In case of any suspicion that the virus may have entered your body, a blood test should be performed to detect anti-HCV antibodies. It is also worth to do it before you become pregnant because even though the risk of passing HCV infection from mother to child is small, it should be remembered that such infection may occur. The test is recommended for people whose blood results show elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) in the blood, are chronically dialyzed, are the children of mothers who have been diagnosed with HCV infection during pregnancy and are infected with HIV.
Until recently, hepatitis C, especially detected late, was a death sentence. Today, it can be said that this disease is almost fully curable. Modern medicine gives a chance to heal 98-99 percent. Patients and doctors emphasize that this is a real revolution.
Now they have effective therapies.
New drugs are not only much more effective but also much better tolerated by patients. Currently, treatment is shorter than a few years ago and can last up to 8 weeks. Healing from infection prevents further hepatic and extrahepatic complications associated with the presence of the virus in the body, and additionally, the patient stops infecting others.
You cannot get vaccinated against HCV. Avoiding infection is not easy. It is worth using medical services only in professional institutions, asking in beauty parlors, tattoo studios, how tools are sterilized and how they disinfected surfaces that cannot be sterilized. Also, avoid risky sexual contact. If you have doubts, do the test. Rapid detection and effective treatment prevent further infection and is considered a form of prophylaxis.
To take care of your health, it is worth getting an HCV diagnosis test. This test is worth doing because, as mentioned earlier, the infection can occur in many situations, from hospitalization to a hairdresser’s appointment.