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What is Acute Hepatitis C?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Acute hepatitis C is an inflammatory disease of the liver defined by its short-term presentation. Oftentimes, acute hepatitis C may occur and subside without the individual having any knowledge that he or she is ill, meaning the person exhibits no symptoms. There is no cure for acute hepatitis C infection; therefore, treatment is centered on symptom management. Acute hepatitis C infection that persists for longer than six months is considered a chronic condition. When acute hepatitis C infection progresses to chronic, liver function should be monitored for significant changes, including pronounced inflammation and scarring.

It is rare to receive a diagnosis of hepatitis C virus (HCV) while the condition is considered acute. The likelihood of a diagnosis increases once the condition becomes chronic, at which time hepatitis C antibodies become present in one’s blood and symptoms begin to manifest. A blood test is generally utilized to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis C. The test will not only demonstrate the presence of antibodies, but also assess the degree, known as the viral load, and type of infection. Both factors play a pivotal role in determining the appropriate treatment approach.

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Hepatitis C is a viral infection transmitted through contact with HCV-contaminated blood. There are several methods through which infection may be spread; the most common routes include intravenous drug use, blood transfusion, and unprotected sex. The disease may also be congenitally passed to a newborn from the infected mother. Certain occupations are considered high-risk for acute hepatitis C virus exposure, including health care, where interaction with infected individuals can be routine. Those who are considered at risk for hepatitis C infection are generally encouraged to undergo routine testing.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis C are the same as those associated with chronic infection. Depending on the severity of liver inflammation, individuals will often experience flu-like signs that may include nausea, fever, and malaise. Those with moderate to severe infection may develop abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite and unintentional, pronounced weight loss. As liver function becomes impaired, jaundice symptoms may present, such as yellow-tinged skin. It is important to understand that even if an individual remains asymptomatic, he or she may still infect others.

In the absence of a cure, acute hepatitis C treatment options are generally based on the severity of one’s condition. Mild presentations may only necessitate proactive self-care, such as staying hydrated and getting sufficient rest. Moderate infection that is chronic may require the administration of antiviral medication to rid the body of the HCV; in some cases, several rounds of medication may be needed before there are any obvious signs of improvement. Those who sustain significant liver damage may qualify for liver transplantation candidacy; despite transplantation, infection recurrence is considered likely.

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