What Is Hepatitis C And How Is It Treated?
Most of us remember getting hepatitis vaccines at some point in our lives, but you may be surprised to learn that there is no vaccination against the infectious disease known as hepatitis C. While hep C can certainly lead to a host of dangerous symptoms and serious conditions, it is often treatable when diagnosed early. In fact, many patients with hepatitis C can actually be cured. To find out more about hepatitis C, including how you know if you have it and what your treatment options are, use this helpful information from the knowledgeable infectious disease management providers at Health Services of North Texas (HSNT), with locations conveniently located across Denton and Collin counties.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection that, if left untreated, can lead to serious liver damage, cancer, and even death. Hep C is technically caused by exposure to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can be difficult to self-diagnose due to its often mild symptoms or an absence of symptoms altogether. However, diagnosis and management of HCV are critical since it develops into hepatitis C and begins to attack the liver, causing cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other conditions.
What causes hepatitis C?
While hepatitis C is caused specifically by exposure to HCV, there are a number of possible exposure methods involving the blood of an infected person coming into contact with your own blood or certain body fluids. Some of the most common ways to get hepatitis C include:
- Being born to a mother with hep C
- Sharing needles with an infected person during drug use
- Having unprotected sex with an infected person, particularly if you have HIV, AIDS, or an STD
- Inadvertently being stuck with an infected needle (accident at work, for example)
What’s the difference between chronic hepatitis C and regular hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is always caused by the hepatitis C virus, but when making an infectious disease management plan, patients are classified by their hep C status:
- Acute hepatitis C: Believe it or not, acute hepatitis C may actually clear on its own in some cases. Acute hep C typically develops about 2 – 4 months after exposure to HCV and lasts for about six months. If acute hep C does not go away, the classification changes to chronic hepatitis C. Even if you are experiencing only subtle symptoms from acute hep C, the risk of liver damage in the future is still present.
- Chronic hepatitis C: If acute hepatitis C lasts for longer than six months, it becomes chronic hepatitis C, which is a long-term viral infection. This can certainly seem frightening or overwhelming, but even chronic hep C can be cured with appropriate disease management.
For patients who have been recently diagnosed with hep C or are living with chronic hepatitis C, the team of HSNT providers offer valuable resources for understanding the next steps in your care, management, and treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis C?
Men and women should be aware that hepatitis C symptoms can be subtle, vague, absent, or mimic the symptoms of other conditions. For this reason, it is essential that you seek evaluation and diagnosis from a professional medical provider if you suspect that you may have been exposed to hep C and/or are experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Abdominal pain (upper right)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Jaundice (yellowing in the eyes and skin)
- Chronic itching or skin rash
- Confusion, slurred speech, or other cognitive impairment
- Bloated or fluid-filled abdomen
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Easy bleeding
- Easy bruising
- Dark urine
- Light-colored bowel movements
- Lower extremity swelling
- Spider veins
- Low platelet count on labs
How is hepatitis C treated?
The compassionate teams at our North Texas locations, including Denton and Plano, are committed to providing the most advanced, effective, and personalized level of care for patients living with acute or chronic hepatitis C. There are a variety of disease management tactics and treatment options, many of which include powerful medications that, in some cases, can lead to a cure. During your consultation at HSNT, your provider will thoroughly evaluate your case status to help determine the most appropriate treatment strategy for you, which may also include testing, counseling, and more. We are also proud to offer care options on a sliding scale for uninsured patients and accept most major insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare.
Protect your health and prevent liver damage with hep C treatment in North Texas
Hepatitis C poses an incredible risk to your short-term health, long-term health, and, ultimately, your life. Don’t delay when seeking advice or treatment for hep C. Whether you are newly diagnosed with acute hepatitis C or are living with chronic hep c, there is hope and help. Call your convenient Health Services of North Texas location in Denton or Plano to schedule an appointment today, and take charge of your health and future with hep c management.