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Hepatitis & Cirrhosis

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hep c and cirrhosis

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus which contains RNA as a nucleic acid in its core and infects the liver. Most individuals infected with this virus do not show any significant symptoms until later on in the course of the disease. In fact most of them are not even aware of having an infected liver,  unless they present with a seriously damaged organ.

Hepatitis can be transmitted from contact with blood, body fluids or sexual contact.
It is one of the several hepatitis causing viruses and which may result in cirrhosis of the liver.

Symptoms of hepatitis

The most common symptoms  hepatitis C are rather vague and are commonly mistaken for another disease. These symptoms include:

• Flu –like symptoms
• Fatigue
• Depression
• Nausea
• Loss of appetite
• Muscle and joint pain
• Yellowish discoloration of the sclera

How do you get Hepatitis C

The virus Hepatitis C transmitted through  the blood and to a lesser extent in the saliva, urine, semen, vaginal fluids and other body fluids of the body. Because of its high concentration in the blood, it is mostly transferred by blood-to-blood contact. The most common mode of transmission of this virus is the illicit sharing of needles by drug abusers. Unprotected sexual intercourse can be a mode of transmission. Needle tip injuries can also put many health care professionals at the risk of being infected. This virus can  be transmitted from the mother to the child during pregnancy.

Blood is now screened for infection with hepatitis C as blood is the most common mode of transmission for this virus.

Risk factors for hepatitis C

The risk of transmission of Hepatitis C is increased in the following group of individuals:

• Drug addicts
• Health care workers dealing with hepatitis C patients
• HIV positive individuals
• Those who received a tattoo or piercing in an unsterilized environment with shared equipment
• Those who received blood transfusions before 1992
• Those who received clotting factors before 1987
• Those who received hemodialysis treatments for a long duration of time
• Those born to mothers who are positive for hepatitis C
• Those  involved in unprotected sexual practices with multiple partners

Stages of infection

The first six months after being infected with hepatitis C are known as acute infection. During this period, a few infected individuals may be able to fight the infection and be free of the infection. Around 25% of individuals can be free of this virus within this period.
The remaining 75% who cannot fight off the infection in the first six months develop a chronic infection. In these individuals the virus stays in the body for many years and will cause chronic damage to  the liver.

Complications

Depending on the other risk factors involved, like alcohol abuse, those who develop a chronic liver disease may go on to further develop liver scarring known as cirrhosis of the liver . 10-40% individuals with chronic liver disease may develop a cirrhosis of the liver  prognosis 20 years after catching the infection.

Furthermore, 20% of these individuals with chronic disease can develop liver failure and 1 in 20 can develop liver cancer.

Testing for Hepatitis C

Tests for detecting antibodies  by serological methods and amplification of the viral genome by PCR method have been developed for testing for the presence of  hepatitis C RNA (HCV RNA) in blood. Because this virus does not cause any significant symptoms, testing is highly recommended for individuals who form the high risk groups such as  drug addicts or those with multiple sexual partners. This can be done through  a simple blood test. The sooner the treatment is started after an infection, the higher the chances for recovery.

Is there a Hepatitis C Cure?

There are a few anti-viral medications which can be used for treatment for infection of Hep C. These drugs can be used to stop the virus multiplying in the body and preventing further liver damage.

Two of the most widely used antiviral drugs are  Ribavirin and Interferon.

There are many different types of hepatitis C viruses which are known as its genotypes. Three of the most common genotypes include 1, 2 and 3. Some of these genotypes respond better to treatment than others.

Those individuals infected with genotype 2 and 3 of hepatitis C virus have better chances of recovery after treatment as compared to genotype 1.

hepatitis_b, cirrhosis, liver

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a type of virus which can infect the liver resulting in an infection called Hepatitis B. The structure of this virus comprises of a DNA nucleic acid in its core. This virus contains an envelope around it. It is transmitted through body secretions, blood transfusions or sexual contact.

Most individuals who are affected with this virus develop an acute form of the disease and may  recover quite quickly. However,  some individuals, may have a greater chance of developing a serious  chronic  infection. This chronic infection is more common in infants and children. There can be many consequences of a hepatitis B chronic infection. It may result in liver failure, cirrhosis of the liver or even liver cancer.

Currently there is no guaranteed cure for this infection. It can effectively be prevented with the help of vaccinations, good dietary support, natural health supplements and appropriate lifestyle changes to suit the individual.

Symptoms of hepatitis B virus

After being exposed to this virus, the body takes 40 to 160 days to develop the symptoms of this disease and symptoms may range from mild to severe. Symptoms experienced may be:

• Abdominal pain
• Dark urine
• Fever
• Joint pain
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and vomiting
• Fatigue
• Jaundice (yellowness of the sclera and skin)

How is Hepatitis B spread?

This infection is spread via  close personal contact from person to person through  the  body fluids of semen or blood. On entry into the liver cells, this virus begins to multiply,  causing our immune response to act. This leads to inflammation of the liver which produces the classic signs and symptoms of this disease.

Hepatitis B virus can be spread by the following means:

Sexual contact: Having unprotected sex with an individual who has tested positive for the hepatitis B virus. This sexual contact can result in the transmission of the virus. Your infected sexual partner can carry the virus in their saliva, urine, blood, semen or vaginal secretions.

Sharing needles: Sharing intravenous drug needles can put you at a risk of hepatitis B virus. The practice of sterilizing needles and reusing them has been discontinued in hospitals many decades ago. Not all needles that are used are disposed of immediately.

But drug abusers and addicts still follow the practice of sharing drug needles. These needles and syringes are contaminated with blood which is hepatitis B positive and the disease can be transmitted from an  infected person to a healthy person through this method.

Needle stick injury: This is commonly found in hospital personnel. It can be a serious concern with health care workers who routinely come in contact with hepatitis B positive individuals in their daily hospital routines. Anyone else who comes in contact with human blood is also in at risk for infection.

Vertical transmission: This term refers the infection which can be transferred from an infected mother to her child especially during the process of child birth.

Acute and chronic hepatitis

Hepatitis B infection can occur in two forms. It can either be acute in nature, that is short lived or it may be chronic which means that it is long lasting.

1. Acute infection: Hepatitis B infection is considered to be acute when the infection is present for duration less than six months. In an acute infection, your immune system is able to clear the infection from your body. Complete recovery is possible within a few months. Most adults get an acute infection.
2. Chronic infection: An infection is considered to be chronic when it is present for duration over six months. It occurs when our immune system cannot fight the infection. It can even become a life-long infection leading to serious conditions such as cirrhosis of the  liver  and liver cancer. Most infected infants and children between 1 to 5 years of age develop a chronic infection.

Diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be easily tested by a simple blood test which checks antigens present in  this virus and the antibodies produced by our body. Tests can also be used to measure the viral load in order to check the extent of the disease. A liver biopsy can be used to check the degree and extent of liver damage and the onset of possible cirrhosis .

There are some drugs called lamivudine which can be used to treat Hepatitis. The treatment will include lifestyle modifications and diet changes. In chronic infection the goal is to reduce the risk of complications developing as a result of hepatitis B.

The Centers For Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that that are about 3.5 million people in the United States of America who have chronic hepatitis C. The CDC also estimates that 20 percent of the people suffering from chronic hepatitis C virus will go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver. The complication with this scenario is that most of the people infected have no idea that they are. This means they have never taken the time required to consider the link between hepatitis C and Cirrhosis of the liver.


The Link between Cirrhosis of the Liver and Hepatitis C

The key link between Cirrhosis of the Liver Hepatitis C is that they both attack the liver. They are dangerous because they both do not sure any symptoms in the early stages. This is the reason why most people with these conditions may be oblivious to their presence. In most cases, the diagnosis comes too late to save the liver, and sometimes life.

Hepatitis C Virus Starts Attacking the Liver

Initially, the hepatitis C virus attacks the liver and, in most cases, later develops into a chronic infection. This chronic infection results in inflammation of the liver which causes damage. According to the Healthline Newsletter , it can take up to 30 years of damage to the liver before the problem is eventually identified.

Development into Cirrhosis

There are a number of factors which can lead to liver damage, including prolonged alcohol abuse, hepatitis, and parasites.

As the inflammation of the liver continues over time, the result is permanent damage and wounds that no longer heal. This is called cirrhosis. When the liver arrives at the point of cirrhosis, it is no longer able to heal itself. The result of cirrhosis can be a collapse of the liver, cancer, and end-stage liver disease. The only solution at this stage is a liver transplant.

The Stages Of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the liver can happen in two main stages. In the first stage, Compensated cirrhosis, the body continues to function even though there is damage in the liver. In the second stage, Decompensated cirrhosis, you may start to experience pronounced symptoms. Healthline identifies some of this symptoms as variceal haemorrhage, hepatic encephalopathy, and kidney failure.

Symptoms of Cirrhosis Caused By Hepatitis C

Cirrhosis related to hepatitis C can show no symptoms in the beginning until the condition is at an advanced stage.

The leading symptoms of this condition include feeling fatigued.  If you experience a lack of appetite, nausea, and weight loss that is not intended, you may also be developing the condition.

Other symptoms include itchiness, bruising and bleeding easily, yellow eyes and skin, swelling legs, fluid in the abdomen, and veins that are enlarged in the upper stomach and the esophagus.

This condition can also result in impaired mental function. This is caused by an excessive build-up of toxins and an infection in the lining of the abdomen. When the kidney and liver fail at the same time, it’s time to get help.


Difference between Liver Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer

When talking about liver cirrhosis, it is easy for people to confuse this with liver cancer. These two are different.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer manifests as a malignant parasitic tumor which grows slowly in the liver. It has potential, just like other malignant tumors to spread to other organs in the body. It can have no causes or sometimes result from other diseases of the liver which can include cirrhosis.

Some of the common symptoms of this type of cancer include pain in the abdominal area. Other signs include yellowish skin, dysfunction of the liver, abdominal mass, and nausea.

Liver Cirrhosis

On the other hand, cirrhosis of the liver is a result of healthy tissues slowly turning into scar tissue which becomes dysfunctional. Unlike liver cancer, cirrhosis is more dangerous as it does not usually show any symptoms when it’s in the early stages.

Some of the common signs of this condition include loss of appetite, fatigue, jaundice, bruises, and fever. If you notice blood in the stool, a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, an orange brownish color in the urine, personality changes and injury to the kidney which is acute, you may be a potential victim.

Do Most People With Hepatitis C Develop Liver Cancer?

Before concluding this article, let’s look at some common questions that naturally come up when a person hears about the link between Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis of the Liver. Do most people who have liver cirrhosis end up with liver cancer? According to WebMD, an online resource that provides information about health issues, the answer is no, as only about 5 percent of the 3 million Americans who have hepatitis C will end up with liver cancer.


Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis Treatment

medication priceA good prognosis of cirrhosis depends on identifying the condition while it is still in its early stages. Treating a patient with hepatitis C using interferon and ribavirin can help slow down the development of cirrhosis. Once the condition has reached the advanced stages, the only treatment which remains effective is a liver transplant.

While interferon and ribavirin are good treament methods, the latest cure for Hepatitis C consists of Sofosbuvir. However, a 12 week treatment costs $84,000, while a 24 week treatment costs over $164,000 for Sofosbuvir in the US. Countries like India, Egypt, etc. sell the generic treatment for these crucial drugs at 90% discounts.

Even though treatment does not always result in a total eradication of the hepatitis virus, it can help to delay complications caused by cirrhosis. Starting treatment late will reduce the choices you have.


Conclusion

Patients diagnosed with both hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver can lead healthy and productive lives. The answer lies in an early diagnosis. An early diagnosis depends on you being able to identify the symptoms. When you start to suspect that this may be a condition you have, consulting your doctor will help you to eliminate the guessing game.

In order to ensure that you preserve your health, you may want to avoid alcohol and get proper medical care on a regular basis. Treating the underlying hepatitis C virus infection can help slow down the progression of cirrhosis. Above all, the right information about the link between these two conditions can help you make informed decisions.