Hepatitis C

This type of hepatitis is only rarely transmitted via bodily fluids during sex and has most of the same effects and remedies attached to Hepatitis B. The chances of contracting the infection, for a monogamous couple are slim. Like B, around one fifth of all sufferers can fight and clear the virus naturally.

What are the symptoms?

As with Hepatitis B, symptoms will usually take two to six months to emerge in what is formally known as the incubation period. The early symptoms are also similar include loss of appetite, stomach pains, muscle and joint aches, fever and some nausea. However, these sufferers may also experience weight loss and fatigue. They should also experience a yellow discolouration of the mucus membrane, skin and whites of the eyes known more commonly as jaundice. In addition to this, stools may become lighter in colour with urine much darker with some diarrhoea occurring.

What can Hepatitis C lead to?

In around one fifth of all cases, cirrhosis of the liver can develop. This can take around twenty to thirty years to emerge and is a process whereby the liver begins to create scar tissue around the organ. This damages the structure of the organ and in turn the function of the liver leading to serious complications. Around 30% of all cirrhosis sufferers survive longer than five years. In some instances, Hepatitis C induced cirrhosis has resulted in organ failure or worse still linked to some forms of liver cancer. However, it’s important to note that failure and the development of cancer are extremely rare.

How is it diagnosed?

The method of diagnosis is identical to that used in cases of Hepatitis B. Doctors diagnose the disorder by taking an initial blood sample. From this sample they will look for the presence of anti bodies there to fight the spread of the virus. Further tests may take place to assess liver function. Blood will also be analyzed to assess the levels of protein and enzymes in the blood, if they are at a raised level a biopsy of the liver may be required to examine the cells further.

How is it treated?

Unlike Hepatitis B there is no vaccine available for use. A combination of the drugs interferon and ribavirin is recommended over a six to twelve month period. While not offering a complete cure, they should slow down the liver damage and inflammation of the organs. Side effects include flu like symptoms as well as some nausea or depression. These effects may be felt strongest at the beginning of treatment and provided that they remain monitored by your doctor, they should eventually settle. However, the treatment is not suitable for patients involved in conditions such as pregnancy.

Where do I go?

Always consult a doctor, sexual health clinic or Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinic in an instance of hepatitis C. Because of the severe nature of the infection, they should be consulted as soon as possible. If there are no specific Genito-Urinary Medicine clinics that come to mind, please contact your local hospital and they will refer you to the correct department or clinic.

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