Hepatitis C: What Are the Various Stages of Infection, and What Are the Causes?

Hepatitis C is a liver infecting virus, which affects the liver’s proper functioning and causes fatal damages to it in later stages. Hepatitis C virus is a blood-borne virus, which means it is spread through blood and not by any other means. When infected blood comes in contact with healthy blood, the virus tends to find a new host. Through blood, this virus enters the liver cells and multiplies there for a longer time. One of the things that are counted as complexity is that there is hardly any symptom in some cases. This means the person will not get to know of the infection, and the virus stays in the liver for years, causing liver cirrhosis or cancer.

Stages of infection

Hepatitis C infects a person in varying stages. All these stages have their own symptoms. In some people, the hepatitis C virus shows symptoms within weeks of exposure. And in some cases, it may not show any signs even after six months.

  1. Incubation stage: in this stage, the virus multiplies, and this stage can stretch up to 2 to 10 weeks.
  2. Acute stage: in this stage, the infection is around six months old. In some people, the virus tends to get removed from the body on its own.
  3. Chronic stage: in this stage, the infection is almost 10-20 years old. It has already caused some amount of harm to the liver tissue, thus causing liver scarring called cirrhosis.

In severe cases of liver cirrhosis, the scar tissue replaces the normal liver tissue, causing inflammation. Also, due to cirrhosis, there are higher chances of liver cancer.

Common symptoms

Some common symptoms that an infected person can show are:

  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Body pain
  • Dark-colored stool
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Also, if the person has chronic hepatitis C, then the symptoms can be much more severe, like:

  • Fluid buildup in the body like ascites and edema
  • Weight loss
  • Encephalopathy
  • Gallstones
  • Liver failure
  • Spider angioma
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Concentration problems

Risk factors

As this disease is contracted from infected blood, there should be blood contact between a healthy and an infected person. There are several instances in which there is a chance of catching hepatitis infection, like:

  • Sharing drug needles
  • Sharing tattoo needles
  • Unprotected sex
  • Using personal items of an infected person
  • From mother to unborn child

Those people who have tattoos done on them, or those who take drugs should get tested for hepatitis C. Infected needles are usually one of the major causes of contracting the infection. Also, those who have HIV, needed a blood transfusion recently, had an organ transplant, or is on kidney dialysis, should get tested.

There are many ways doctors tend to test for hepatitis C infections. Some common ways include testing liver function, HCV RNA test, and Anti-HCV antibodies test. Getting tested in time will help the patient recover quickly and also reduce the chances of liver dysfunction.

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