Hepatitis C

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis is the medical word for inflammation of the liver. The Hepatitis C virus was identified in 1989. Since 1991 tests can find it in blood. Hepatitis C is a complicated virus. It has at least 9 main sub types, called genotypes. Each genotype can also have subtypes. No vaccine works against any form of this virus. The medical term for the virus is HCV (Hepatitis C Virus).

Finding Out You Have Hepatitis C

There is no right or wrong way to feel about having any illness. It is natural to feel vulnerable and powerless when you are first diagnosed with a serious illness. It can be a frightening time and you may feel that Hepatitis C is, at times, taking over your life, that the whole thing is like a bad dream. At other times you may be overwhelmed by worry or anger.

With the proper support, most people who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C go on to live full lives.

Do Not Try To Cope Alone

If you have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and you need to speak to someone who understands your situation; contact our office. By calling our office you will be able to talk to Maura or Susan in total confidence. Transfusion Positive are a support group. We are here to support you.

You need someone in your life, other than your doctor, who knows you have Hepatitis C. You should trust that person to keep the information private and to support you when you are under stress.

A counsellor or therapist can help you understand your own situation and to deal with your fear and anger. You are entitled to counselling without charge if you have been infected by blood or blood products administered within the Irish State.

Find Out About Your Situation

Find out what having Hepatitis C means for YOU, not for others. Ask your doctors and nurses about YOUR situation. Make a list of questions to ask at each visit to the specialist centre or clinic. back to top

How Serious Is Hepatitis C?

The Hepatitis C virus can cause liver problems. For some people these liver problems become serious. It usually takes 20, 30 or more years before the Hepatitis C virus causes serious liver problems. It is impossible to tell who will have few problems and who will have severe difficulties. Some people feel well but have serious liver problems. Other people can often feel unwell but have few liver problems. Once you have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C it is vital that you keep in regular contact with the specialist centre or liver clinic, even if you are feeling well. Regular tests will pick up any problems you may have. back to top

Symptoms Of Hepatitis C

Many people with Hepatitis C show no obvious symptoms. In some cases, people may gradually begin to notice obvious symptoms. Sometimes, it may be clear that these reflect liver problems. Sometimes, the symptoms may be general and do not clearly indicate a liver problem. The longer a person has Hepatitis C the more likely they are to notice symptoms. Possibly the most common symptom is extreme tiredness or chronic fatigue. This can have a real effect on everyday life. The fatigue may be more noticeable at some times than at others. It is often worse at times of stress. Joint and muscle pain are also very common. Many people complain of headaches. Some people with Hepatitis C have skin rashes or irritation or dryness of the eyes. Another complaint is abdominal discomfort, sometimes with fluid retention. Depression is common and occasionally may be severe. Some people complain of difficulty in concentrating and sleep disturbance. Some people have yellowing of the skin or of the whites of the eyes (jaundice).

Main Signs And Symptoms Of Hepatitis C

  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Flu-like illness
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or of the whites of the eyes)
  • Skin rash
  • Dry eyes
  • Depression

You may have one or all of the above symptoms but this does not mean that you have Hepatitis C. If you have any of these problems make sure to talk to your family doctor. back to top

Transmission: How Is The Hepatitis C Virus Spread?

Hepatitis C is a virus that lives in blood. It is passed from one person to the next through infected blood. There are many different routes of infection. Transfusion Positive deal exclusively with people who have been infected with Hepatitis C via the administration of contaminated blood and blood products within the Irish State. back to top

Everyday Contact With Someone Who Has Hepatitis C: Could I Be At Risk?

If you avoid all contact with blood you are at absolutely no risk.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by being near or with a person who has the virus.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by coughing or sneezing.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by shaking or holding hands, kissing or hugging.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by contact with toilet seats or hand basins.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by food.

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by knives and forks etc. (cutlery) or plates, cups etc. (crockery). back to top

Who Needs To Know?

General Practitioner (GP)

You should tell your GP that you have Hepatitis C. This information will be treated as confidential. Your doctor needs to know about your Hepatitis C in order to treat you properly.

Dentist

You are not legally obliged to tell your dentist that you have Hepatitis C. Your dentist knows about the risks of Hepatitis C and should make sure that everyone in the dental surgery is safe. You may prefer to tell your dentist. This is up to you.

School And College

In general, school or college authorities have no automatic right to know that any student has Hepatitis C. Some training courses for dental or medical careers may ask you if you have had Hepatitis C and other virus infections. It is important to answer those questions truthfully. back to top

Treatments For Hepatitis C

Some people need little, if any, special treatment. Other people need a lot of medical and other help. Your consultant will discuss the best treatment option for you on an individual basis. back to top