Hepatitis C

Approved Doctor(s) ; Fernando Castro , William Carey • Jun 27, 2022

Table of contents

30-Second Summary

  • It is a liver disease transmitted by the HCV virus.
  • Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease.
  • It occurs in two forms: acute and chronic.
  • Chronic Hepatitis C lasts longer than 6 months and, if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Hepatitis C, which is not detected until its late stages, is extremely difficult to detect in its early stages. This is because it often does not show any symptoms in the initial stages, and when it does, it manifests with symptoms such as indigestion and fatigue, which can be seen in many other diseases.

Hepatitis C is a disease that affects 70 million people worldwide. In our country, approximately 750 thousand people are fighting against Hepatitis C caused by the HCV virus.

How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?

Hepatitis C is one of the diseases that is transmitted from person to person. Hepatitis C, which is transmitted through blood, is therefore commonly seen in people who receive blood and blood products and in those who use intravenous drugs. 

In our country, because drug use is not widespread, transmission of Hepatitis C through this route is rare. On the other hand, blood banks, which are responsible for blood transfusions, test all the blood they receive for Hepatitis C and other infectious diseases. Additionally, the use of single-use and sterile medical equipment makes transmission through this method extremely difficult. 

Whether Hepatitis C is transmitted sexually is still a controversial issue. On the other hand, it is thought that having multiple partners increases the risk of Hepatitis C. However, any injury or trauma during sexual intercourse can highly likely result in Hepatitis C transmission. Contrary to popular belief, social interactions in the home, workplace, or social settings do not transmit Hepatitis C. Additionally, Hepatitis C does not spread through toilets or swimming pools, nor is it carried by mosquitoes. In our country, the prevalence of Hepatitis C is 3 per 1000 people.

On the other hand, the disease, which is transmitted through blood, is usually spread through personal hygiene products that have blood on them. Examples include razors, nail clippers, and toothbrushes. Also, dental treatments performed with improperly sterilized instruments carry a high risk of transmission.

Another environment where Hepatitis C is frequently transmitted is improperly sterilized manicure, pedicure, and tattoo tools. These tools, which are used on many people, should either be single-use or properly sterilized.

Although rare, Hepatitis C can be transmitted to patients through infected organ transplants. However, because Hepatitis C is included in the tests performed before organ transplants, this situation is rare.

Women who are carriers of Hepatitis C have a 10% chance of transmitting Hepatitis C to their babies during pregnancy. However, the Hepatitis C virus is not transmitted through breastfeeding. On the other hand, if there is a crack in the nipple during breastfeeding or if the mother has a high viral load, breastfeeding should be temporarily discontinued.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C can be seen both acutely and chronically. Therefore, the symptoms observed vary depending on whether the disease is acute or chronic.

Acute Hepatitis C Symptoms

Acute Hepatitis C is the type that lasts less than 6 months and results in the complete elimination of the virus from the body. However, liver failure can also be seen in patients with acute Hepatitis C. Symptoms seen in patients with acute Hepatitis C include:

  • Rarely seen jaundice,
  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Dark urine,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Feeling constantly tired,
  • Flu-like symptoms,

Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms

It takes years for liver failure and other complications to appear after the first symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C. Early symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C include:

  • Mild fatigue,
  • Cognitive problems,

How is Hepatitis C Diagnosed?

Unlike other types of hepatitis, Hepatitis C does not usually cause jaundice. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to diagnose the disease in its early stages. While a complete recovery is seen in 30% of patients diagnosed with Hepatitis C, the disease becomes chronic in 70% of patients.

Among patients with chronic Hepatitis C, 20 to 30% develop cirrhosis. Additionally, 2% of patients with chronic Hepatitis C develop liver cancer. However, these complications develop over years. Therefore, it takes 10 years for the disease to become chronic, 20 years to develop cirrhosis, and 30 years to develop liver cancer. While Hepatitis C is a slow-progressing disease, men over the age of 40 who consume alcohol have a higher risk of developing cirrhosis.

Two different tests are used to diagnose Hepatitis C. These tests are the antibody test and the PCR test. Test results are available within 2 weeks.

In addition to these tests, some blood tests and ultrasound examinations are performed to evaluate the liver's condition, especially after diagnosing Hepatitis C. 

Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C is usually discovered by chance as a result of examinations conducted for other reasons in its early stages. If diagnosed during this period, the likelihood of recovery is high.

There are two FDA-approved medications for treating Hepatitis C. These medications are not yet available in our country, but once they become available, it is stated that Hepatitis C will be completely curable.

During the 3-month treatment process with these medications, tablets are taken orally daily. Another effect of the medications is to prevent the risk of cirrhosis.

Things Hepatitis C Patients Should Be Careful About

Both Hepatitis C patients and carriers are at risk of transmitting the disease to others. Therefore, these individuals need to be extremely careful.

It is crucial for individuals diagnosed with Hepatitis C to have regular doctor check-ups. They should also have liver function tests done twice a year and avoid alcohol consumption. If Hepatitis C patients need to take medication for any reason, they should consult their attending physician first.

Ways to Prevent Hepatitis C

Since there is no vaccine for the Hepatitis C virus, paying attention to the following points plays a key role in preventing the disease.

  • Avoid unsafe sexual practices. 
  • Use sterilized equipment in practices such as piercing, tattooing, manicure, and pedicure that disrupt the integrity of the skin.
  • Do not share shaving equipment like razors for personal care.
  • Avoid drug use.

Nutrition in Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C cannot be treated with diet or special nutritional regimens. However, paying attention to nutrition supports the treatment. Besides what is eaten, how much physical activity is done is also important.In general, Hepatitis C patients should focus on fruits and vegetables in their diets.

Additionally, they should lean towards lean protein sources and whole grains. Salt, sugar, and fat intake should also be reduced. Loss of appetite is a common issue among patients due to the disease. However, small and frequent meals should be consumed to ensure the intake of necessary micro and macro nutrients.

Recommended foods for Hepatitis C treatment

To ensure that Hepatitis C patients receive sufficient minerals and vitamins, attention should be paid to the following points: 

  • At least one dark green leafy and orange vegetable should be consumed daily.
  • Fresh fruit should be consumed daily.
  • Nuts are recommended for healthy fats.

Minerals and vitamins help cleanse the liver and repair the damage caused by Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C patients should also have a protein-rich diet.

Because protein helps protect the heart and muscles while also maintaining daily activities. Egg yolk is particularly recommended as a healthy protein source. Other recommended protein sources for patients include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Beef
  • Legumes

However, patients are advised not to consume processed and canned protein sources.To maintain a healthy metabolism, Hepatitis C patients should consume sufficient amounts of healthy fats. Healthy fat sources include:

  • Apple
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Coconut oil
  • Nuts

Saturated fats should not be consumed as they increase the pressure on the liver. Additionally, diets that severely restrict fat should be avoided. Hepatitis C patients should eat regularly. Therefore, starchy foods should be included in their diet.

Removing starch from the diet can deplete liver reserves and cause the body to malfunction. However, harmful starchy foods should be avoided. These include:

  • Fried foods
  • Frying oils
  • Sugarcane
  • Flour
  • Processed foods
  • Foods with a lot of milk
  • Alcohol

Instead, use healthy starchy options such as bread, rice, and noodles.

Foods to avoid for Hepatitis C patients

Hepatitis C patients should completely eliminate or limit the following foods:

  • High-fat meats like lamb
  • Offal
  • Ice cream
  • Full-fat milk and dairy products
  • Coconut milk
  • Canned protein sources
  • Pies
  • Fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Snacks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Cabbage
  • Mustard
  • Radish
  • Cucumber
  • Hot peppers
  • Onion
  • Vinegar
  • Ginger
  • Soda

Ways Hepatitis C is Transmitted

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease. Therefore, the ways of transmission include:

  • Unsafe injection practices
  • Injection drug use
  • Unregulated blood transfusions
  • Bleeding during sexual intercourse

Is Hepatitis C transmitted sexually?

Although not common, Hepatitis C can also be sexually transmitted. Factors that increase this risk include the presence of sexually transmitted infections, having multiple partners, and engaging in anal sex. However, sexual transmission of Hepatitis C is less common compared to other transmission routes.

How long do Hepatitis C patients live?

If the Hepatitis C virus does not cause any liver damage or other complications, there is no change in the expected lifespan of Hepatitis C patients.

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