Hepatitis C symptoms
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver, it may produce debilitating symptoms that affect an individuals day to day quality of life; the treatment for hepatitis c symptoms is often the drug interferon – which causes many unpleasant side effects. Currently there is no available vaccine for hepatitis C, however treatment is usually effective.
Hepatitis C symptoms such as fatigue or reduced mental function may seem fairly minor but may well affect the ability of sufferers to carry out normal everyday tasks or even to fulfil their work obligations.
Hepatitis C symptoms generally fall into two categories -
- Short term symptoms which may mean temporary adjustments in certain areas of daily life, these symptoms may be the result of interferon treatment, the result of an isolated bad patch or because you are waiting for the treatment to become effective.
- Long term symptoms that persist over a long period of time may require an individual gives up work or other responsibilities. Late stage symptoms, often involving cirrhosis, will make work virtually impossible.
Fatigue is recognised both as a hepatitis C symptom and as a side effect from interferon treatment. Patients should ensure that they are eating a healthy, well balanced diet, plenty of rest and fresh air and use deep breathing exercises in order to maintain energy levels.
In the UK it is estimated that of the 250,000 infected with hepatitis C as many as 80% of them are unaware of the infection – this is due to the general absence of symptoms until many years after initial exposure to the virus. Within this group of individuals approximately 75% will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C. Early diagnosis may well prevent the considerable damage which occurs in the liver when the virus goes unchecked and untreated.
Worldwide estimates indicate that hepatitis C infection affects around 3% of the population, around 170 million people, with as many as four million new infections annually.
Hepatitis C symptoms are often vague and non-specific; there have been cases of patients being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome but later discovering they in fact have hepatitis C. Unlike hepatitis A and B, the C strain of the virus does not generally cause jaundice in infected individuals. Symptoms may include -
- Fatigue – the main symptom, which may be mild but is very often extreme.
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intolerance to alcohol
- Pain around the liver area
Approximately 30% of infected individuals are able to clear the virus from their system with no long term effects. However, for the remaining 70% the outlook is not as good. Any infection lasting longer than six months is referred to as chronic – this means that the immune system has failed to deal with the infection and, without treatment, the virus will remain in the body. For these individuals the disease will generally be fairly mild and will cause few if any symptoms – they will however be able to transmit the disease to other people.
It is estimated that around 20% of those with chronic hepatitis C are likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years.
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