Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough –Hepatitis C is a type of viral infection that causes inflammation to the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread through blood that is contaminated. It is most commonly spread via shared needles or other tools that inject drugs. HCV can be short term, but for about 70-85% of people, it becomes a chronic long-term condition. There is currently not a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C. Fortunately, today, HCV has become curable. The trouble is that many people don’t even know they have HCV as it can take decades to develop and show no symptoms. The population at the highest risk for contraction includes anyone who was born between 1945 and 1965. Today, oral medication that is taken every single day for up to 6 months can help cure HCV.
The symptoms of Hepatitis C surface once the liver has been severely damaged. Symptoms include dark colored urine, swelling in the legs, weight loss, fatigue, easily bleeding and bruising, jaundice, and confusion. Those at the highest risk for contraction include those who have injected illicit drugs, anyone who is working in the health care field and being exposed to contaminated blood, being born to a mother who has HCV, a person who has spent time in prison, someone who has had a tattoo or piecing with contaminated equipment, those born between 1945 and 1965, and those who have received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.
HCV can be detrimental. It can cause the liver to completely stop working. It can cause liver cancer. Liver function is damaged due to cirrhosis (scarring) that has accumulated over the years. A blood test will diagnose HCV. The goal is to eliminate the disease after 12 weeks of treatment. With new advances to the medications, some people are being cleared of the virus within 8 weeks. The choice and type of medications depends on the existing liver damage and hepatitis C genotype, but there are natural and proactive measures you can take to reduce the risk of contraction. This includes: avoiding alcohol, making sure not to expose others to the blood via sharing razors, toothbrushes, via sexual intercourse, or blood donations. Avoiding medications and unnecessary supplements that can damage the liver is also recommended. Liver health is critical and keep a low fat, low salt, lower protein diet is a good idea. This doesn’t mean “no” to salt or protein, it just means lower amounts.
Hepatitis C has become treatable. One should always be cautious of sanitary conditions when being exposed to situations that blood could possibly become exchangeable. Hepatitis C is one of the liver’s worst enemies and living in the moment and spontaneous actions can lead to long term damage to your body’s ability to optimally function.
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