Hepatitis C Treatment in Jeannette, PA
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C, often referred to as hep C, is a viral infection of the liver that causes inflammation. It affects about 3.5 million people in the United States; however, many people who have hep C do not realize it until they begin to show signs of liver damage, such as yellow skin, fatigue, and nausea.
Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and liver failure if left untreated. Thankfully, there are several ways to test for this disease, and various medications and treatments are available to help patients overcome its symptoms.
To schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner in Jeannette who specializes in hepatitis C treatment, call (724) 915-1049 or contact Medical Wellness Associates online.
Causes of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C occurs when you become infected with the hepatitis C virus through blood contamination. Causes of hepatitis C usually involve sharing drugs and needles, having unprotected sex, or being the biological child of a woman with hepatitis C.
Certain people have a higher risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C, including people that are:
- Healthcare workers
- Injection drug users
- Individuals infected with HIV
- Recipients of long-term kidney dialysis
- People who receive tattoos or piercing with non-sterile equipment
Though most hep C causes can be avoided, you should always be careful when around areas with needles or in places where blood is being drawn.
Hepatitis C Symptoms
There are two different types of hepatitis C: acute and chronic. Acute hepatitis C usually goes undiagnosed because it rarely causes symptoms. Symptoms that do arise usually do so 1-3 months after exposure to the virus and last anywhere from two weeks to three months.
Acute hepatitis C symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches
About 14 to 50 percent of people with acute hepatitis C may be able to clear the virus from their system, an occurrence known as spontaneous viral clearance. However, acute hepatitis C can sometimes become chronic, and chronic hepatitis C can be asymptomatic for many years until it has destroyed enough of the liver to cause symptoms of liver disease.
Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C can include:
- Jaundice (yellow eyes, skin and dark urine)
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
- Hepatic encephalopathy (confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech)
- Stomach pain and poor appetite
- Bleeding and bruising easily
Treatment for Hepatitis C
If you experience any symptoms of hepatitis C, your healthcare provider may order a blood test designed to detect anti-HCV antibodies, proof that someone has been infected with acute hep C. If antibodies are found, then a nucleic acid test for HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) will be done to confirm the presence of chronic hep C.
If chronic hepatitis C is detected, tests should be done to access liver damage. These include:
- A magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) to detect scarring on the liver.
- A transient elastography, which projects ultrasounds into the liver tissue to determine its’ stiffness.
- Ultrasound biopsies, which take samples of liver tissue for further laboratory testing.
There are many different kinds of hepatitis c medicine available to patients. In recent years, researchers have discovered that using "direct-acting" antiviral medications, sometimes in combination with other medications, can provide patients with better outcomes and fewer side effects. Examples of such drugs include Zepatier and Harvoni, each combinations of two other drugs.
Ultimately, the kind of medication that your healthcare provider prescribes you will depend on the hepatitis C genotype you are infected with, how much liver damage is present, as well as other medical conditions, such as past treatment of hepatitis c. Also, while there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, your doctor might also recommend that you receive vaccines against the hepatitis A and B viruses to prevent further complications.
Whichever antiviral medication is used, the goal of the treatment is to have your body cleared of the hep C virus for at least 12 weeks. If there is too much damage to your liver from chronic hepatitis C, liver transplantation may be an option. However, this treatment may not cure hep C, and direct-acting antiviral medication will likely be used in conjunction with a transplant to prevent the virus from returning.
Hepatitis C is a serious disease that may not be noticed until it's too late. To schedule an appointment with a hepatitis C specialist in Jeannette to discuss your treatment options, call (724) 915-1049 or contact Medical Wellness Associates online.
Medical Wellness Associates
Jeannette, PA 15644
8:00 am - 7:30 pm
Tue: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
Wed: 8:00 am - 7:30 pm
Thu: 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
Fri: 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Sat: 8:00 am - 12:00 pm