Symptoms And Signs Of Hepatitis C | Levels Of Hepatitis C

Signs Of Hepatitis C

Signs Of Hepatitis C

In this article we will discuss symptoms and signs of hepatitis C.

Introduction

Hepatitis is a viral disease that results in liver inflammation, which may sometimes cause irreversible damage. The condition is more severe when compared to Hepatitis A or B in particular.

It is caused due to the presence of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the blood that enters the body through contaminated (fecal matter) food or drinks. This contamination is often gone undetected because the virus does not show any immediate symptoms, and the general ones can take several years to appear.

Levels of Hepatitis C

The disease’s slow activation makes it crucial to understand its progress over time. The duration of these stages may differ from person to person, but the medically accurate ones are as follows:

Incubation Period:

This is the duration between the virus’s entry into the bloodstream and the start of the disease. It can be anywhere around 14 to 80 days.

Acute Hepatitis C:

Around 6 months after the virus has entered the body, it might give rise to slight symptoms and cause the victim to be ill from time to time. Usually, a person who has entered this stage would eventually develop chronic Hepatitis C. However, early detection and treatment can completely clear the virus from the body.

Chronic Hepatitis C:

If the virus is not removed from the body, it will become a long-term infection that could last over several years. This is when the symptoms get more prominent, and as the disease spreads, the threat of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis increases.

Signs of Hepatitis C

Early Symptoms and signs of hepatitis c:

Hepatitis C is a disease that creeps up on the infected person. The virus can remain dormant inside the body for years, leading to its late discovery and treatment. Late diagnosis leaves no room for the prevention of acute hepatitis, as it becomes chronic.

Here are some symptoms that may be recognizable during the period between incubation and the acute hepatitis stage:

  1. Abdominal pain, mainly centered in the belly.
  2. Clay-colored stool. It is usually an indicator of problems related to the body’s drainage system. The gallbladder, pancreas, and liver are affected.
  3. Dark brown urine, which occurs due to the presence of bile.
  4. Fatigue caused due to changes in the neurotransmissions between the liver and brain.
  5. Flu-like signs such as fever and cold sweat.
  6. Jaundice, as a result of bilirubin not being broken down by the liver.
  7. Joint pain or swelling that may lead to arthritis. The virus stimulates the body’s immune system to over-work, resulting in such aches.
  8. Decreased appetite due to the loss of alteration of taste reception.

Main Symptoms

There are many cases where patients have not experienced any of the early symptoms. Chronic hepatitis C tends to develop as a ‘silent’ disease. Once the virus ensues its damage on the liver, the body would show the following conditions:

Bleeding and Bruising:

Blood will not clot when there are open wounds in the body, leading to excessive blood loss. The virus depletes platelet production, which is responsible for blood clotting and the first step of healing the wound.

A bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) causes the skin to get extremely vulnerable. It can get bruised easily, or red and purple spots might show up. ITP is developed due to the direct suppression of the bone marrow by the virus.

Itchy Skin:

Hepatitis C gives rise to pruritus, which makes the liver incapable of flushing the toxins out of the body. Instead, those toxins start accumulating in the bloodstream. The skin may become unbearably itchy, even without insect bites or rashes.

Fluid Build-up:

Swelling or puffiness might start showing in the ankles, knees, and joints of the lower body. The swelling, medically termed Edema, occurs due to blood capillaries leaking fluid into their surrounding tissues.

Another form of fluid retention called Ascites takes place in the abdominal region. When the liver is inflamed, its functionality sees a steep decrease, causing pressure to build up in the veins. This pressure, termed portal hypertension, causes fluid to pool around the abdomen.

The stomach ends up taking on a balloon-like appearance. Ascites will cause HCV patients to gain weight and experience sudden difficulties in breathing.

Weight loss:

This is an unexplained symptom of Hepatitis C. Some patients have observed their desire to consume food decreases. There is hardly any appetite as the virus keeps damaging the liver.

The reason behind this cannot be pinpointed, but it can be loosely linked to reduced energy production in the body when the virus becomes highly active.

However, weight loss is a well-known symptom of the treatment people undergo for the virus. However, they gain weight back after the treatment is complete.

Hepatic Encephalopathy:

The decline in brain function during the onset of chronic hepatitis C is called Hepatic Encephalopathy. When the liver suffers severe damage, it fails to perform its primary duties, including flushing the toxins out of the body.

While the physical effects of this have already been mentioned, it also influences the brain’s cognitive functions. It may start with problems like forgetfulness, natural confusion, and a sweet or musty odor to the patient’s breath.

If these early signs of the disorder are left untreated, they may result in advanced symptoms like the continuous shaking of limbs, slurred or slow speech, and acute drowsiness. The treatment for this involves flushing out the toxins from the intestines.

Spider Angiomas:

Swollen blood vessels are a standard indicator of the presence of HCV. Spider angioma is a form of swollen blood vessels that are found slightly below the skin’s surface. They are seen as a central red spot, with red extensions radiating outwards. This appearance is very similar to that of spiders’ webs, hence the name. 

Who is Likely to be Affected?

The early symptoms may be tell-tale or can be the indicator of some other disease. This leads to ignorance. But there are cases in which they should be taken seriously, and an immediate test for HCV should be conducted.

Some of the common cases are:

  1. There has been a history regarding the use of drugs, primarily through syringes. It could have happened only once or would have taken place many years ago. 
  2. Dialysis treatments, or the filtration of blood due to kidney failure.
  3. If the person is HIV positive.
  4. Have previously had a lot of sex partners, or one who was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C
  5. If their profession is that of a healthcare worker, who is routinely exposed to needles, blood, and bodily fluids.
  6. Are born between the years 1945 and 1965. This generation has been recommended to go through at least one screening for the detection of Hepatitis C.

Conclusion

An early diagnosis of HCV can erase the need for liver transplantation. It can also be successful in reversing the damage endured by the liver. Hence it is extremely crucial to recognize the faintest of signs, especially if the individual finds themselves in any of the above-mentioned cases.