Hepatitis C presents a serious problem for many Americans, in part because of its ability to lead to more dramatic health failures. There are many people in the United States and throughout the world with the infection and disease caused by the virus. One government site estimates 1.5% of the 300 million population of the US have the ‘C’ strain of the virus alone.
The global population has nearly double the rate of afflicted, along with a highly occurring rate of HIV in tandem with ‘Hep-C.’ Although it’s much easier to contract than HIV, hepatitis C also typically becomes passed on in blood to blood transmission.
Who Is At Risk?
Most often those with the disease are intravenous drug users, especially those with any record of incarceration. The drugs mostly injected are crack cocaine, meth, and heroin. Occasionally the virus can also be contacted through sexual activity, although the likelihood is much, much more frequent in IV drug use. Those with chronic drug abuse develop low impulse control.
Thus, it is no surprise that they would not hinder engaging in unprotected sexual activities and even using dirty needles for injecting intoxicants. All this shows that drug abuse can contribute to contracting the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Oftentimes the virus lays dormant in the system at some point after contraction, and if the symptoms are present they are minor and not associated with the virus.
During the acute stage of infection, many people will not notice that they have no symptoms at all. Therefore typical means of detection include the ALT & AST liver enzyme levels (usually elevated in the sufferer), and during other liver panels, as opposed to mere observation alone.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
When the disease progresses to a chronic phase (ie; more than six months of infection) then it can still often be asymptomatic. If the effects are noticed, some of the symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)
Symptoms specifically suggestive of liver disease are typically absent until substantial scarring of the liver has occurred. As seen from the list of symptoms above, hepatitis C is a systemic disease.
Thus, patients may experience a wide spectrum of manifestations, ranging from an absence of symptoms to a more symptomatic illness prior to the development of advanced liver disease. Once an advanced liver disease has developed there is the real possibility of cirrhosis of the liver, along with liver failure and the need for a liver transplant.
A person can get cured of Hepatitis C, but that is a 12-14 weeks program, which requires taking medication (pills) several times a day. People with drug abuse disorder complicate the process by getting high regularly and missing the pills. Besides, hepatitis and drug abuse combined fastens the damage to the liver.
Contracting HCV through drug abuse enhances the chances of mental illness, leading to depression and anxiety. The recovery rate of such people with co-occurring diseases is much lesser than those with a single problem. They need to immediately get treatment from a rehab center to prevent further damage as this abuse puts the health in jeopardy.
Treatment of Hepatitis C
Among the treatment options prior to reaching such a drastic measure are, abstinence from alcohol and other liver-toxic substances, and a regimen of medicines including ‘interferon’. Depending on the strain of the virus, and the damage already done to the liver, medication can be quite effective in ridding the blood of hepatitis C, and remain the most widely accepted and recommended forms of treatment.
For anyone who suspects that they may have been exposed (either through IV drug use, sexual activity, tattoo work done in an unsafe way, or other exposure to blood) the best approach is to schedule an appointment with a specialist, get blood work done, and aggressively approach treatment with one of the prescription combinations that have proven effective. To prevent the spread of the infection a proactive approach is of vital importance.