Patient Information Leaflet

Hepatitis C


What is Hepatitis C ?

Hepatitis C is a virus that is carried in the blood and can cause serious damage to the liver. There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C, but effective treatment is available. There are often no symptoms for many years, so if there's a chance you may have been exposed to hepatitis C, it's important to find out more and get tested and treated.

How common is the infection ?

Hepatitis C infection is spreading fast in India and over one lakh people get infected by the deadly HCV virus every year, according to the Indian National Association for the Study of Liver (INASL) study. Only 20% of patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) clear the virus. The remaining 80% have chronic HCV infection which can lead to severe liver disease, with 20% developing cirrhosis after 20 years. Those with cirrhosis are at risk of liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma .

What is natural history of the Hepatitis C ?



How is Hepatiits C Diagnosed ?

  • Blood Test:
    • Hep C antibody test (anti-HCV) : the anti HCV test looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C , that are produced by the body immune system in response to the liver . A positive result shows that a person has been exposed to the virus at some time . This test does not detect whether the virus is still present or whether the persons is infectious
    • HCV PCR is the confirmatory test
    • Genotyping : There are 6 different genotypes of HCV along with 50 subtypes . The different genotypes do not appear to result in different styles of disease, but they do differ in their response to treatment, genotype 1 is the most resistant, genotype 2 & 3 patients have good response to treatment.
  • Ultrasound of liver
  • Fibroscan : can be used to assess degree of damage to liver instead of liver biopsy.

How do you acquire Hepatitis C ? (Causes of Hepatits C )

  • Blood transfusion & blood products
  • Unsterlize razor in the barber's shop
  • Piercing using sterile technique
  • Sharing toothbrush & razor
  • Infected mother passing to her baby during pregnancy
  • Unprotected sex.
  • By sharing equipment for injecting drugs .

What are the symptoms?

  • Abdominal pain, loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin & eyes) & Dark urine

Why have a test ?

If you do have hepatits C you can get treated. Effective treatment is available & can successfully clear the virus in more than half of all people treated , on average. The treatment can work in as many as eight out of ten for some types of virus .

How might the virus affect me in the long term ?

Around one in four people who become infected with Hepattis C will get rid of virus naturally .
However most people who become infected will have it for a long time .

This may affect them in different ways :

  • Some people may stay well through out their life.
  • About one in five people may develop severe liver damage (cirrhosis) & in some cases cirrhosis may lead to liver cancer or liver failure

Is treatment available?

Treatment for hepatitis C are improving all the time . A form of drug therapy (interferon, injectgion and ribavirin) is available that can cure the infection in about half of the people treated depending on genotype. Your doctor & specialist will discuss with you whether treatment is appropriate.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Do not share needles used to inject drugs , hormones, steroids & vitamins.
  • Do not share towels, razor, nail clippers.
  • Inform your doctor regarding this infection.
  • Do not donate blood or organs.