According to recent statistics, African Americans are almost twice as likely to die from a Hepatitis C infection when compared to other ethnicities. This statistic is related to the fact that the viral infection not only has an acute form but a chronic one as well.
To make sure you’re not at risk for developing long-term problems from Hepatitis C, you have to learn about the early signs that can be easy to miss.
Typical Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Once you’ve caught Hepatitis C, you’ll experience what is known as an acute infection. Unfortunately, the majority of persons have no symptoms at all at this stage. If there are symptoms, they can present themselves anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks after the initial infection and last up to 3 months.
Usually, you may have:
- Muscle aches
The acute stage of the virus is easily treated with medication so there is no need for it to get to the chronic stage.
Of course, a few people with the infection have had the virus pass harmlessly from their systems with no long-term effects.
For others, a chronic infection develops with an even longer list of symptoms. These include:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- A buildup of fluid in your abdomen
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Unexplained swelling in your legs
- Unexplained weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
Chronic Hepatitis C will also take a toll on the liver. Many persons who miss the other symptoms of the virus become aware of their status because their livers have begun to fail.
How Persons Get Infected
The virus gets into your system from infected blood. While anyone can be exposed to Hepatitis C, some persons are at a higher risk than others.
That list includes health workers who have exposed to infected blood, persons with HIV, persons who have used illicit drugs, and persons who were born to a mother who was infected. If you received a tattoo under unsanitary circumstances, a Hepatitis C infection may be possible.
There is also an increased risk of infection for those who have been in prison, have received blood transfusions, clotting factors, or organ transplants before 1992, as well as persons who have been doing hemodialysis treatments for an extended period.
The Current Treatment Options
While some persons are lucky enough to have their bodies’ get rid of the virus on their own, most will need some kind of treatment. To determine which drug will work for you, your doctor will likely need to perform some tests to find out the specific genotype of the virus. With this information, you’ll start your treatment.
The treatment can last for as long as eight weeks because the aim is to ensure that the virus has been effectively removed from your system. Bear in mind that other tests and treatment programs may be necessary if you have chronic Hepatitis C and it has started to affect your liver.
After doing a biopsy to assess the level of damage, your doctor will discuss your options with you. In some cases, the liver becomes so damaged that a transplant is needed.
It’s not always easy to identify the symptoms of Hepatitis C, especially in acute cases. However, if you think you might have been exposed to the virus, it’s best to get tested. Not only will you get treated quickly but you’ll also avoid the complications that come from a chronic infection.