Almost one in every 70 persons in the US, that is 1.45% of the American population is estimated to be suffering with Hep C. The same is true with India and many other countries.
Hepatitis means an inflammation of the liver. When the inflammation of the liver is due to a specific RNA virus which leads to chronic inflammation, it is called Hepatitis C. There are several virus names as A,B,C,D,E, etc. which are known to affect the liver, producing Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, etc. In fact, this particular virus has a capacity to induce not only inflammation but scarring of the liver, which is called as cirrhosis of liver. The virus tends to multiply rapidly hence not allowing to develop natural antibodies in adequate quantity. This virus is a slow and silent destroyer of liver cell. It may so happen that one may not realize the infection for years together.
After a prolonged state of inflammation cirrhosis may take place, which may take ten to fifty years. It is a very slow process, if not aggravated by certain food habits and alcohol.
How does one get Hepatitis C?:
The virus spreads through blood or infected syringes. (Similar to Hepatitis A and HIV infection.) Those who are drug addicts using syringes, frequent blood donors (not using sterile syringes) are prone to catch this virus. Tattooing and body piercing could be a source of infection. Organ transplant, dialysis for kidney failure are other important sources of infection. It is uncommon that one may get this virus through sexual contact. It is believed by most, today that steady partner may not need physical protection if one partner is Hepatitis C positive. However, unsafe sex with changing partners may prove to be a source of infection. It does not spread by touch, saliva, air, food or water. Mother to baby transmission during the birth is possible. However, the rate of such transmission is not significantly high.
Complications of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C being a chronic infection, it has certain long term complications. About 80% or more patients tend to develop chronic symptoms due to recurring or chronic liver inflammation. Many of the HCV infected patients suffer from recurring acute liver inflammation (acute hepatitis). About 10% patients develop cirrhosis (scarring) of liver, leading to diminished liver functions, within early 10 years. 25% of the patients develop cirrhosis eventually. About 5% of those infected may develop liver cancer.
Broadly, it may be noted that it takes one decade to develop early symptoms, about two decades to have cirrhosis, and above three decades to have cancer of the liver.
Liver cancer is a fatal condition.
The factors which could aggravate and influence early development of liver inflammation, cirrhosis and cancer, are:
(1.) Alcohol (2.) Smoking (3.) Liver toxic drugs (4.) Exposure to chemicals (5.) Stressful life style (6.) Hepatitis B infection (7.) Hereditary tendency to cirrhosis or cancer
Hepatitis C and associated disease conditions:
Hepatitis C and Lichen Planus:
Exact connection between the two has not been understood very well. However, the studies indicate that Lichen Planus is associated with Hepatitis C in several cases.
Hepatitis C is often found to be associated with Diabetes Mellitus. Patients with Hepatitis C have increased proneness to develop diabetes.
Certain studies have shown Thyroid dysfunctions (Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism) associated with Hepatitis C.
What will affect the future of Hepatitis C patients:
Females are known to have slow disease progress as compared to the male patients. Late age onset (after 40 years of age) of Hepatitis C tends to run serious course of diseases than the younger age group patients. Consumption of alcohol can increase the risk factor several folds once the diagnosis of Hepatitis C is made, as alcohol has toxic action on the liver which can aggravate the scarring (cirrhosis) of liver.
Chronic sufferers after 20 to 25 years stand increased risk to develop Liver cancer, which is observed more in males, with increased risk in higher (older) age group.
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