INFORMATION ON HEPATITIS C

Avoiding hepatitis C

 

There’s no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C. But we can all minimize our risk of infection, or of infecting others, through safer behavior.

It’s vital to ensure that you don’t come into contact with the blood of another person, or let other people come into contact with your blood.

That means:

 

Don’t inject drugs.

 

       If you can’t stop injecting drugs, never share injecting equipment, such as needles, syringes or anything else that might have been in contact with blood. Talk to Frank for confidential drugs information on 0800 776 600 (see Useful links).

       If you don’t know someone’s sexual history then use a condom. Only condoms provide all-in-one protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

       If you’re considering an ear or body piercing, tattoo or semi-permanent make-up, either in this country or abroad, makes sure the equipment used is sterile.

       If you’re considering acupuncture, make sure the equipment used is sterile.

       Don’t share toiletries such as razors, toothbrushes or tweezers. They may have been in contact with blood.

 

,Hepatitis C symptoms 

 

Some people who test positive for hepatitis C have no symptoms for years or even decades. Others may suffer from a range of mild or serious symptoms.

Crucially, it could be decades after infection with the virus that symptoms first appear.

Immediately after infection Most people don’t experience any symptoms when they first become infected with hepatitis C. Some people may feel briefly unwell. In rare cases they may become jaundiced, which involves a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

One in five people who become infected will clear the virus naturally and suffer no long-term ill-effects. But most people who become infected will develop chronic (long-term) infection.

Long-term infection Long-term hepatitis C infection can affect people in a variety of ways:

Some people remain well throughout their life and will not develop liver damage.

       Some people only develop mild to moderate liver damage, with or without symptoms. Symptoms that may be experienced include fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, alcohol intolerance and pain around the liver.

       About one in five people will go on to develop severe liver damage, called cirrhosis, over a period of 20 years or more.

       In some people, severe liver damage can lead to liver cancer or complete liver failure, and the need for a liver replacement.

       either in this country or abroad, make sure the equipment used is sterile.

       If you’re considering acupuncture, make sure the equipment used is sterile.

       Don’t share toiletries such as razors, toothbrushes or tweezers. They may have been in contact with blood.

 

Living with hepatitis C

If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis C, there may be implications for your lifestyle, work and mental health.

But there’s a lot you can do to help minimize the effect of the condition on your life.

Lifestyle

There are lifestyle changes you can make to help limit the damage that hepatitis C does to your liver and to ensure that you don’t pass the virus on to anyone else.

Protect your liver Stop drinking alcohol altogether or limit the amount you drink.

Maintain a healthy weight Try to maintain a healthy weight for your height by exercising and controlling your calorie intake. It’s been shown that those with hepatitis C who are overweight may increase the likelihood of fatty deposits in their liver, which could worsen their condition.

Maintaining a healthy weight means you’re likely to respond more positively to treatment for hepatitis C.

Practice safer sex Sexual transmission of hepatitis C is uncommon but is possible. You should, therefore, consider telling any sexual partners that you’re infected with the virus. Long-term partners of people with hepatitis C should consider getting tested for the virus.

It’s important to practice safer sex by using a condom to eliminate any chances of transmission.

If you’re undergoing drug treatment for hepatitis C, it’s important to use a form of contraception for the duration of treatment and for six months afterwards. The drugs used in treatment can cause severe birth defects. Even men taking ribavirin may father children with birth defects or induce a miscarriage (fetal loss), since the drug has been detected in semen.

Get emotional support when diagnosed with hepatitis C some people feel isolated or depressed, and don’t know who to talk to about their illness. There may be feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, self-pity, fear, anxiety or self-blame over past behavior.

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