What is hepatitis?
...How does someone get hepatitis?
...Could I have hepatitis C and not know it?
Some of these questions may have brought you here. Or, maybe you've never thought about the possibility that you or a loved one could have hepatitis.
Here are some important facts about hepatitis C. currently affects over 4 million Americans
• is the most serious form of hepatitis
• a leading cause of liver failure
• almost 36,000 Americans contract HCV annually
• 8,000 to 10,000 deaths annually in the U.S. are reported to be due to HCV-related cirrhosis or liver cancer
• nearly 1/3 of all liver transplants are for HCV-related chronic liver disease
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Affect on the liver
This virus infects the liver and eventually leads to inflammation and damage to the liver. Just as you can't live without a heart or a brain, you can't live your liver. Some vital functions of the liver are:
• filters waste, bacteria and poisons from your blood
• stores vitamins and sugars for energy.
While the liver may be suffering damage from the hepatitis C virus for many years, the person infected is usually unaware of the presence of the virus or its potential for long term consequences, if untreated Hepatitis can progress to: • cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
• liver failure
• liver cancer
Many hepatitis C infected individuals do not feel sick. This fact has lead to the labeling of hepatitis C as the "silent epidemic". If symptoms are present, they are common for many other illnesses and may be overlooked. The most frequently reported are:
• "flu-like" symptoms, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and mild stomach pain.
There are certain ways of treating or easing hepatitis C. If the liver is badly infected, surgery would be best advised. A recommended method of easing pains such as the mild stomach pain is the use of tramadol.
Who's At Risk
Estimates indicate that 300,000 Americans were infected with hepatitis C through blood transfusions given before 1992.
Today, the blood screening process at blood banks across the country has made the spread of hepatitis C through transfusions very rare. But this blood-borne virus is known to spread through other, more common types of contact.
Though the hepatitis C virus cannot pass through un-punctured skin, it is primarily spread by blood-to-blood contact. It is essential for all of us to become knowledgeable about how hepatitis C is spread from person-to-person!
Transmission of this virus may occur from exposure to infected blood through: • cuts and nosebleeds
• toothbrushes, razors, and manicure instruments
• tattoos and body piercing
• sharing needles for IV drug users
• jobs with exposure to blood (especially healthcare workers)
• sharing straws for inhaling cocaine
• unprotected sex with multiple partners (low risk except when with infected partner)
• sharing personal care items (such as nail files or clippers)
• hemodialysis patients (using a kidney machine)
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