Hepatitis C

July 2017


Definition


Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus causing damage to the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted primarily through blood and the use of contaminated equipment (often the case for drug addicts). The disease can also be transmitted from a mother to her child. Sexual transmission is exceptional. Initially asymptomatic, the disease can heal spontaneously in about 30% of cases, or cause chronic hepatitis and in turn lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Symptoms


The patient may have no symptoms at the time of the contamination, which is by far the most frequent case. This is why many people carry the virus without knowing it. The infection can still occur by:
  • an initial phase with fatigue, fever, joint and muscle pain, diffuse headaches and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, nausea);
  • a secondary phase of jaundice, sallow skin, itching, dark urine and pale stools.

Other less typical forms can be expressed.

After infection, 3 out of 10 people on average heal and 7 out of 10 develop a chronic infection. The latter may show no symptoms, but the disease will ultimately be discovered with clinical signs of chronic hepatitis and its complications, namely cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma.

Diagnosis


The diagnosis is often made accidentally. It is suspected following a biological assessment that shows an increase in liver enzymes. The diagnosis is confirmed by serology which highlights the presence of anti-HCV antibodies. Other tests, such as the so-called PCR, allow, in the case of a positive result, to confirm an active presence of the disease. Note that any infection identified with hepatitis C should be investigated as a possible infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.

Treatment


In the case of an acute hepatitis C virus, the use of antiviral treatment will usually make the disease evolve to a state of chronicity. This treatment consists of the use of alpha interferon three times a week for several months.
In the case of chronic hepatitis C, treatment is based on an initial vaccination against hepatitis B, coupled with stopping the use of the alcohol and tobacco. Depending on the various factors considered by the specialist, the combination of alpha interferon and an antiviral drug, ribavirin is the standard treatment.

Prevention
To protect against hepatitis C, it is important to use disposable syringes for medical uses so as to reduce the transmission of the virus.
Blood transfusion is performed under sanitary conditions to prevent the spread of such a disease.

Related

Original article published by . Translated by Jeff. Latest update on June 14, 2013 at 05:40 PM by Jeff.
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