Hepatitis C infection, a viral infection that mainly affects the liver. It is also called viral hepatitis. During the first phase of this infection. Many people often don’t feel any symptoms or if they even feel these are mostly mild. That the reason Hepatitis C considered as “silent killer”.
Patients affected by Hepatitis C infection occasionally feel fever. Dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellow discoloration of the skin. The hepatitis C virus persists in 75 to 85 percent of patients with initial infection and may not cause any alarming symptoms. Over the course of time, the infection leads to liver damage and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis caused by chronic hepatitis C infection may lead to liver failure. liver cancer, and or dilated blood vessels in the gastrointestinal tract.
An estimated 71 million people or nearly one percent of the entire world population infected with hepatitis C as of 2017. In 2013, about eleven million new infections have been reported. Most common in Africa, Central America, and Asia. Infection of Hepatitis C claimed many lives, many of them unreported. Almost 167,000 deaths due to liver cancer and 326,000 deaths due to cirrhosis occurred in 2015 alone due to hepatitis C.
Broadly categorized Hepatitis C into the following.
Acute Hepatitis C Infection
Sudden onset and acute symptoms develop in only 20–30% of Hepatitis C infected patients. Symptoms may appear after 4-12 weeks of infection, it may take even 6 months before any symptoms are felt.
When symptoms do appear these are generally mild and nonspecific. Major symptoms may include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, fever, muscle pain, abdominal pain, diminished appetite, and weight loss. jaundice (occurs in ~25% of those infected), dark urine, and clay-colored stools. Acute Hepatitis C alone often does not cause liver failure. though it can result in liver injury and elevated liver enzymes.
If you or any of your loved ones feeling any of the above symptoms and laboratory findings are suggestive of liver disease. Please consult a specialized liver clinic. Dr. Faisal Dar Clinic Quaid e Azam Hospital a specialized liver clinic operated by highly skilled professionals and providing all liver-related services under one roof.
After the acute phase, Hepatitis C infection may resolve in 10 to 50% of patients, mainly young and females.
About 80% of patients infected with the hepatitis C virus develop a chronic infection. This is characterized by detectable viral replication for at least six months. Most people will feel no symptoms during the initial days of chronic hepatitis C infection. In limited no of patients, Chronic hepatitis C can cause fatigue and mild cognitive impairment. Chronic infection may lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer after several years. Fatty liver occurs in about half of patients before cirrhosis
Many as 30% of those suffering from chronic hepatitis C infection develop cirrhosis over the years. There increased risk of Cirrhosis in patients concomitantly infected with hepatitis B, HIV, in alcohol users, and those of the male gender. If chronic hepatitis C patients alcoholic the risk of cirrhosis increased 100 fold. Cirrhosis carries a very high risk of liver cancer.
More about Chronic infection
Liver cirrhosis may lead to hypertension (portal), accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, bleeding, enlarged veins, especially in the stomach and esophagus, jaundice, and hepatic encephalopathy. Ascites or fluid in the abdomen more common in chronic hepatitis C patients. Chronic Hepatitis C also associated with other complications not related to the liver. Most common among them are autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lichen planus, a low platelet count, porphyria cutanea tarda, necrolytic acral erythema, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, diabetic nephropathy, autoimmune thyroiditis, and B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. Chronic hepatitis C infection increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Some patients may experience dry mouth or develop stones in salivary glands.
In this type of Hepatitis C, infected persons may seem asymptomatic and clear from infection but the virus may still be present within their bodies. In such cases virus of hepatitis C is not detectable with conventional testing but found with ultra-sensitive specific tests. In the past liver, biopsies were performed to detect viral genome but now newer methods used successfully. These include an antibody test for the virus’ core protein and the detection of the viral genome after first concentrating the viral particles by ultracentrifugation.
Another form of hepatitis C infection reported characterized by the absence of antibodies to hepatitis C but with moderately elevated serum liver enzymes. This form as cryptogenic occult infection.
More about Occult Infection
The negative effects of occult infection appear to be less severe than with chronic infection but can vary from minimal to hepatocellular cancer. This infection presented with pretty bizarre clinical findings and often hard to diagnose, especially in countries like Pakistan. As you are aware that your health, your most precious commodity, so don’t take chances. Consult specialized liver clinic for any liver-related problems. Dr. Faisal Dar, your one-stop solution for all liver-related problems. Don’t hesitate to contact us and book your appointment.
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Dr. Faisal Dar (Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute, Lahore)
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