Hepatitis C Symptoms: A Complete Breakdown
Hepatitis C is an extremely dangerous infectious disease and it’s important to recognize Hepatitis C symptoms. One of the reasons that make it so dangerous is that in the majority of cases this condition is ‘invisible’. Symptoms can vary greatly, but quite often, they are either unnoticed or attributed to other health issues. As a result, the inflammation of the liver goes untreated until the situation deteriorates dangerously.
It’s essential to understand the signs of hepatitis C symptoms as well as take the necessary tests if you are in the high-risk group.
Hepatitis C Symptoms Based on Type: Acute and Chronic
Now that you know what is hepatitis C, you need to learn that there are two main types of this infection; chronic and acute. The symptoms experienced by the patient depend on them.
Acute hepatitis causes short-term symptoms that last for no more than 6 months. However, this condition can transform into a chronic form. In this case, you can experience various side-effects of the disease for the rest of your life.
Sadly, it’s still unknown why some people develop chronic hep C while others can successfully cure the infection at the acute stage. Early diagnosis and specialized treatment are believed to reduce the risk of the disease going into the chronic stage.
Hepatitis C Symptoms: Acute
The acute hepatitis C infection causes discernible symptoms only in about 15% of the patients. Even in these cases, the symptoms are vague and rather mild.
They include but aren’t limited to:
• Decreased appetite
• Joint and muscle pains
• Weight loss
• Unexplained stomach pains
• Abnormal urine and/or bowel movements
Jaundice is extremely rare in the cases of acute hepatitis. Just as rare is the most dangerous of possible symptoms, an acute liver failure.
Please note that early hepatitis C symptoms occur about 6-7 weeks after the exposure to HCV (Hepatitis C Virus). It is possible for some people to develop these signs as early as 2 weeks after the infection in the liver starts. However, a delay in symptoms is also very common. In rare cases, it might take a patient up to 10 years to become aware of the disease. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse claims that this happens because the virus might take this long to cause significant liver damage.
Hepatitis C Symptoms: Chronic
Hepatitis C turns into a chronic infection in about 80% of the cases. These patients rarely experience any symptoms at all for decades. In some situations the chronic hep C infection can cause:
• Cognitive problems (mild)
The more ‘visible’ and much more dangerous hepatitis C symptoms develop after several years of exposure to the HCV virus. They include:
This disease develops slowly. In essence, it’s a gradual liver failure that can lead to a variety of dangerous health issues and possibly death. The first mentions of cirrhosis date back to the times of Hippocrates (5th century BC). However, we still don’t have an effective cure for this problem.
According to statistics, hepatitis C is the cause of 27% of the cirrhosis cases worldwide. Up to 30% of the patients suffering from this disease develop this extremely dangerous condition within 30 years of contracting the HCV. The high-risk group includes in hep C patients who are also suffering from HIV, hepatitis B, and schistosoma. Alcoholics also have a higher occurrence of cirrhosis. Hepatitis C symptoms in men need to be monitored with extreme care as they are more likely to develop this form of liver degeneration. Increased alcohol consumption by patients suffering from hepatitis C leads to cirrhosis in almost 100% of cases.
This condition may cause the following problems:
o Ascites (collection of fluid in the abdominal area).
Occurs in about 50% of patients suffering from hep C. The fluid buildup might become inflamed spontaneously.
o Varices (enlarged veins).
o Hepatic encephalopathy.
May cause confusion and coma that will lead to death.
Can be associated with itchiness.
• Liver cancer.
HCV is believed to be responsible for about 25% of hepatocellular carcinoma cases worldwide. This is the most common form of liver cancer, but not the only one that can occur in patients suffering from this infectious disease. The most common symptoms of these malignant tumors are jaundice, abdominal pains, nausea, and other signs of liver dysfunction. Note that liver cancer is the sixth most common on Earth and causes over 750,000 deaths every year.
Signs of Hepatitis C: Extrahepatic Complications
Not all problems caused by hepatitis C are related to the liver. This condition is also associated with the following conditions:
• Sjorgen’s syndrome.
This is an autoimmune disorder that affects the moisture-producing glands. Unless complicated by other conditions, the syndrome doesn’t affect life expectancy. However, chronic inflammation and impaired functionality of specific glands require targeted treatment.
• Mixed cryoglobulinemia.
This is the condition that occurs when the blood contains large amounts of cryoglobulins (proteins) that turn insoluble at lower temperatures. This can lead to the appearance of clumps that block blood vessels, which may result in gangrenous fingers and toes.
• Rheumatoid factor.
About 20-30% of hep C patients develop the rheumatoid factor, which is an auto-antibody. The higher the level of this factor, the higher is the risk of developing destructive articular diseases.
This condition occurs when the level of thrombocytes (platelets) in the blood is reduced. It becomes extremely dangerous when the platelet count drops below 50,000 per micro-liter.
• Necrolytic acral erythema.
This is a kind of hep C rash that usually occurs on the skin around the mouth, lower abdomen, distal extremities, perineum, buttocks, and groin. It’s more common in patients suffering from hepatic cirrhosis.
• Insulin resistance.
It’s a condition when the body stops responding to the insulin (hormone) correctly. This makes your body produce more insulin, so its level in the blood increases. This can be used for early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, people at risk of this disease, should pay close attention to this particular hepatitis c symptom. In fact, the increase in insulin resistance caused by HCV makes one more likely to develop diabetes earlier in life, around 35-40 years.
• Diabetic nephropathy.
This is a progressive kidney disease caused by long-term diabetes. The risk of this dangerous complication that leads to end-stage kidney disease is increased in patients who also suffer from hepatitis C.
• Porphyria cutanea tarda.
Strangely, symptoms of hepatitis rarely include skin disorders. However, this virus often leads to porphyria. A study indicates that hepatitis C is responsible for about 50% of PCT cases. This type of porphyria manifests in skin changes caused by the impaired production of heme (important molecule and a component of hemoglobin). The condition manifests in blisters and erosions on the areas of skin commonly exposed to sunlight.
• Autoimmune thyroiditis.
This is the inflammation of thyroid gland that causes hyperthyroidism. This problem, in turn, results in a variety of hormonal disorders.
Hepatitis C symptoms, in general, are often associated with autoimmune disorders due to the increased rheumatoid factor caused by this disease. Chronic infection of the liver also contributes to a great number of nervous disorders as well as abnormal heart rhythms. Hepatitis C screening can help with prevention and early diagnosis of many dangerous health conditions, including diabetes type 2 and pancreatic cancer.
Signs of Hep C: Occult Infection
This form of infection is different from chronic and it’s much more difficult to diagnose. It may occur in people who have suffered from hepatitis C and currently seen clear of the virus. However, they actually remain infected and can exhibit the symptoms and signs caused by HCV and conditions the virus can aggravate.
The good news is that the consequences of occult infection aren’t as severe as chronic hepatitis C. The incidence of cancer is lower in this case.
Diagnosing cryptogenic occult infection is extremely tricky. In the past, the only form of test that could discern the presence of HCV in the liver despite the normal level of serums and liver enzymes was biopsy.
Today, patients can take the specialized hepatitis C antibody test. Note that there is a form of infection that doesn’t show elevated levels of antibodies on tests. It does exhibit a higher level of serum liver enzymes.
It’s important to know that occult infection may occur not only in presumably cured hep C patients but also in healthy people with no other evidence of liver diseases.
End-Stage Hepatitis C Symptoms
The biggest problem caused by the fact that hepatitis C symptoms are so difficult to notice is that this condition can go unnoticed for long enough to enter into the so-called HCV induced end-stage of liver disease. This condition is often fatal.
Symptoms that occur when the liver starts to fail due to hepatitis C include:
• Extreme level of fatigue
• Ascites (abdominal swelling)
• Cachexia (weakness and wasting of the body)
• Pruritus (severe itching)
• Varices (enlargement of veins that can lead to bleeding)
• Cognitive decline (caused by the accumulation of toxins)
When to Seek Medical Help?
As symptoms of hepatitis C aren’t a reliable sign of the disease, all people from the high-risk group should get tested regularly so that the disease can be diagnosed early.
This group is formed based on the modes of hep C transmission and includes the following people:
• Ex-drug users (HCV is often transmitted through injection tools)
• Organ or tissue transplants recipients (those who underwent transplantation before 1992)
• Blood transfusion recipients (those who received transfusions before 1991)
• People who lived and/or received any medical treatment in the areas with the high occurrence of hepatitis C virus (East Asia, Central Asia, Middle East)
• Babies whose mothers have hepatitis C (HCV can be transmitted during birth)
• People who got tattoos made by equipment of dubious sterility
• Health workers and other people exposed to the virus
• Sexual partners of hepatitis C patients
There are two primary blood tests used to diagnose HCV, the antibodies test and PCR. The former will only show results after several months of exposure to the virus. Therefore, if your hepatitis c symptoms don’t abate, you may have to take the test again.
The PCR test for hepatitis C shows that your body didn’t succeed in fighting the infection and it transformed into the chronic form.
Once the infection is diagnosed, you may have to undergo other tests to determine the specific type of hepatitis C virus and other facts. This is necessary for developing the treatment program that would work best.
Liver biopsies may be required, though they are rare as the procedure itself carries numerous risks.
Is There a Cure for Hepatitis C?
The only way to prevent this disease is to limit your exposure to any potential risks. However, even in this case you might contract the virus accidentally. There is no vaccine for HCV, but there are medications that work in up to 80% of cases, touted as the Hep C Cure.
The most popular of the hepatitis C medications available today is Harvoni. It’s a mix of ledipasvir (90 mg) and sofosbuvir (400 mg). This antiviral medication shows good results, but it does have one huge disadvantage, which is the price. The full-course of these drugs can cost around $90,000, which makes it unavailable to a huge number of patients.
Luckily, today a generic alternative is available to the US and Canada residents. This treatment would cost you around $700 for 84 tablets. The treatments that consist from ledipasvir and sofosbuvir are effective in up to 99% of cases for treating HCV genotype 1, 4, 5, and 6.
Patients suffering from cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C may require a liver transplant.
No alternative medicine has shown any significant results in hepatitis C treatment. Considering the dire consequences of not receiving timely treatment for this virus, attempting alternative treatments is not recommended.
The prognosis for treatment of HCV via ledipasvir and sofosbuvir is very high. Curing the infection also reduces the risk of developing liver cancer by 75%. The treatment course length may vary and must be determined by your doctor. Additional medications can be used to manage other health conditions that occur as the side effects of hepatitis C.
Considering these facts, Harvoni does seem like the best solution. If you don’t want to overpay a huge amount of money for the brand name, find alternative generic ledipasvir and sofosbuvir medications on our Shop page!