Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver. It’s incredibly difficult to diagnose, and many of those infected will not know they have the condition. Hepatitis C is dangerous if left untreated, as it can cause serious and life-threatening damage to your liver over many years.
How Many People Are Infected?
It’s estimated that around 215,000 people are infected with Hepatitis C in the UK. However, that figure could be higher, as many people with the virus don’t know they are infected.
How Is It Transmitted?
Hepatitis C is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact. Some ways in which the virus can be transmitted are:
* From pregnant mother to baby
* Sharing razors or toothbrushes
* Sharing unsterilised needles
* Through unprotected sex (although cases through penetrative sex are rare)
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of Hepatitis C are usually difficult to spot and only become apparent once significant damage has been done to the liver. Symptoms can also be mistaken for other conditions when they do occur. Symptoms of the virus include:
* Feeling sick
* Loss of appetite
* Extreme fatigue
* Abdominal pain
* Flu-like symptoms
Tests for Hepatitis C
If you’re experiencing symptoms of Hepatitis C, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. A simple blood test will be able to determine whether you have been infected with the virus. This can be carried out at your local GP surgery, sexual health clinic, genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or drug treatment service. Organisations like https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/ and other sexual health sites such as https://www.bexleysexualhealth.org/ which provide STI testing in London, now make it even easier to test yourself for infections.
Treatment for Hepatitis C
If diagnosed early, Hepatitis C can be easily treated with limited damage to your liver. A combination of medicines, taken over a period of months, stops the virus from multiplying in the body.
If you’re found to have Hepatitis C, then you’ll be prescribed a weekly injection of pegylated interferon, and you’ll also be required to take ribavirin through a capsule or tablet.
Ways to Reduce Chances of Infection
* Not sharing drug-injecting equipment with others
* Not sharing razors or toothbrushes
* Using condoms during sex, especially if blood contact is likely, such as menstrual blood or from minor bleeding during anal sex.