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Published On: Wed, Aug 15th, 2018

How Screening Can Save Lives for People with Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is one of the most chronic diseases of its clan. It’s a kind of virus that typically affects the functioning of the liver and causes the onset of severe inflammation in the body. Medical researches and on-going studies state that the virus of Hepatitis C, unlike its cousin – Hepatitis A, B, D and E, is difficult to treat and it’s highly contagious in nature. At present, no vaccine is available with medical science to effectively treat Hepatitis C and cure the problem.

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Chronic Hepatitis C

The virus of Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. It spreads via one of the following means:

  • Organ transplant
  • Sharing needles
  • Blood transfusions
  • Sharing items like razors, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Sexual contact (if blood is exchanged)
  • Child birth (from a mother carrying the virus of hepatitis C in her womb)

Studies and many pieces of research state that the virus of Hepatitis C spreads quicker than any other known Hepatitis virus. However, its symptoms are hardly visible at its initial stage. They become more prominent and evident once the virus has done enough damage to the liver and immune system of the body. At the same time, symptoms chronic Hepatitis C develop over a period of months.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 70 million of the world’s population suffers from chronic Hepatitis C every year and about one-fourth of them lose their lives to this fatal disease.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on the other hand, states that over 70 to 80 percent of individuals with Hepatitis C do not experience any kind of symptoms until their condition worsen beyond repair. The other 20 to 30 percent people report experiencing mild to severe symptoms.These are as follows:

  • dark urine
  • abdominal pain or discomfort
  • joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • jaundice

The symptoms of this fatal condition take usually six to seven weeks to appear and last for months.

Hepatitis C Screening

A physician may not be able to diagnose Hepatitis C just by examining the symptoms of a person. This is because, most symptoms of this chronic disease coincide with many other related conditions such as liver malfunctioning, liver cirrhosis, etc. He/she may order a series of tests to check for signs of presence of Hepatitis C infection in the body.

Generally, the initial testing phase of Hepatitis C has three major parts.

  • The HCV Antibody Test – it checks whether a person has been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus.
  • The Viral Load Test – It detects if a person was merely exposed or actually has the Hepatitis C virus.
  • Genotype Test – It finds out the kind of Hepatitis C virus a person has.
  1. HCV Antibody Testing:

For every foreign element that enters or attacks the body, the immune system releases a set of antibodies against it. And, Hepatitis C virus is no exception to this. The antibodies to HCV are usually present in the bloodstream, and can be detected within two to three months of the virus’s invasion in the body.

If an individual tests positive for HCV antibodies, this means that he/she has been exposed to the virus. Usually, 15 to 25 percent of people are able to get rid of the virus within six months of their exposure. However, in case their condition starts worsening and they begin experiencing symptoms of Hepatitis C, the next step is to look for the actual virus present in the bloodstream, using a viral load test.

  1. HCV Viral Load Testing:

Here, a physician usually requests for a qualitative HCV RNA test to check for the presence of HVC in an individual’s bloodstream. He/she may also order the test to determine a person’s HCV viral load or the amount of Hepatitis C virus present in a measurement of blood sample.

Several methods are used for detecting HCV RNA. These include:

  • TMA (transcription-mediated amplification),
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and
  • bDNA (branched DNA).

Typically, qualitative viral load testing is considered as a more sensitive testing method than quantitative testing.

The test type is also used for checking how well a person is responding to HCV medications. However, an increase or decrease in HCV RNA does not define the progression of the disease, and hence, the qualitative viral load test is not considered as a very useful testing tool outside of treatment. Furthermore, HCV viral load test results cannot define if or when a person with this condition will develop cirrhosis or have a liver failure.

  1. HCV Genotype Testing:

Genotype can be defined as a genetic structure or makeup of a living organism. Medical science states that the virus of Hepatitis C has eight different kinds of genotypes, each of which has been numbered in accordance to their discovery. They have their own subtypes as well. While testing for Hepatitis C virus, it is important to find out which virus genotype the person has, as it helps in determining the best treatment available for that particular condition.

Hepatitis C Vaccine

Unfortunately, there’s no hepatitis C vaccine available with medical science to fully cure the problem. However, there are a couple of other means to prevent getting the virus of Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C Complications

Most common complications associated with Hepatitis C include liver cancer, liver malfunctioning and cirrhosis. About 20 percent of people with Hepatitis C may also need a liver transplant in order to survive.

The complications of Hepatitis C arise when the condition becomes chronic in nature. This is precisely the reason why medical practitioners state that the sooner a person gets diagnosed with Hepatitis C, the sooner he/she can get treated and avoid their condition from deteriorating.

Hepatitis C guidelines

No specific guidelines have been defined by medical science to manage the condition of Hepatitis C, other than the ones stated by a physician after studying the symptoms and overall condition of a person. However, there are several things an individual can do, including bringing a change in their diet and lifestyle, which can help them manage Hepatitis C and live a healthier life.

Author: Ravi Kumarr Gupta

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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