As an inflammation of the liver, hepatitis can severely damage the overall function of the organ, causing long term health problems. This particular type of hepatitis, known as hepatitis C, is one of the most common as there is no preventative vaccine.
What is Hepatitis C?
Similar to the other forms of hepatitis, hep C is a liver infection that is caused by a virus that can be broken into two different categories: acute and chronic.
Acute hepatitis C will happen within the first six months after someone is exposed to the virus, which is typically spread when blood from the infected individual enters someone who is not infected. Although acute hepatitis C can imply that a person may only have it for a short period of time, it often will become chronic due to lack of diagnosis and treatment.
Chronic hepatitis C occurs after the virus has gone untreated for a longer period of time. In this category, a person may begin to experience liver damage and other severe symptoms that can possibly lead to death.
How is Hepatitis C Spread?
The most common method of transmission of hepatitis C is through direct blood exposure, although there can be many indirect avenues such as:
- Using the same needles or syringes as someone currently infected.
- Being born to a mother who has tested positive for hepatitis C.
- Engaging in sexual contact, although this believed to be very a low possibility.
- Sharing items that could’ve come in contact with the blood of someone infected (razors, scissors, toothbrushes, etc.)
- Receiving tattoos or body piercings in an unsanitary environment.
- Having open wounds or needles in a healthcare facility.
- Receiving a blood transfusion or transplant, typically prior to 1992.
Baby Boomers and Hepatitis C
Baby boomers, or individuals born between the years of 1945 and 1965 are nearly five times more likely to have hepatitis C than any other age group. In part, this is due to the transmission of the disease being the highest during the 1960s and 1980s because of less knowledge of prevention and testing opportunities. In addition, the blood supply prior to 1992 was not completely eliminated of the virus, making the potential for hepatitis C to be spread in a medical environment much higher than it is today. If you were born during this time, it’s important to seek testing to rule out the possibility of further spreading the infection.
What Are The Symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Because hepatitis C often has very mild symptoms, or even none at all, people often so not seek immediate testing. Typical symptoms of hepatitis C will arise between two to 12 weeks, and can often include:
- Loss of appetite
- Strong abdominal pain
- Change in urine and bowel movement color
- Joint pain
If you feel that you have been infected, or are experiencing the above symptoms, speak to one of our providers today about setting up a test.
How Do I Get Tested for Hepatitis C?
Although the time to deliver results will be dependent on your doctor’s office, most will use a test called a Hepatitis C Antibody Test, or Anti-HCV Test, to determine whether or not you have been infected. When the results come back, they are often classified into two categories: non-reactive and reactive. Non-reactive, or negative, implies that a person does not have hepatitis C, whereas a reactive, or positive test, will indicate that hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood.
Diagnosing Hepatitis C
Just because a test comes back as positive does not necessarily mean that a person has hepatitis C. Additional blood tests will be required, including something called a RNA test. Should this test come back as positive, then our office will make the diagnosis and determine further treatment options.
For more information about hepatitis C testing, or to set up your appointment, please call (716) 278-4820 for our Niagara Wellness Connection Center. Appointments are recommended, however walk-ins for hepatitis C consultations are welcome most Wednesdays between 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.