Whenever a person has hepatitis, regardless of the type or “letter,” that person is dealing with inflammation of the liver. When a person has Hepatitis C, or as it is more commonly called, Hep C, that simply means that he or she is struggling with an infection, which may or may not be sexually transmitted, that affects the liver.
Who Needs Hep C Testing?
Hep C is not a very common sexually transmitted disease. Therefore, not every person who engages in unprotected sexual contact necessarily needs to be tested for it immediately. However, Hep C testing never hurts, so even if you are not in one of the high risk groups for Hep C, you may want to check and see if your clinician is testing for it regularly. If you do fall into one of the following high risk categories, however, regular testing is an absolute necessity:
- You have ever injected illegal drugs or gotten a tattoo from an unclean, unprofessional, and/or unlicensed establishment
- You have blood clotting problems
- You had a blood transfusion prior to 1992
- You had a organ transplant prior to 1992
- You are on hemodialysis
- You exhibit unexplained symptoms of liver disease
- You are a healthcare worker
- Your biological mother had Hep C
Most people who have recently become infected with Hepatitis C will not exhibit symptoms, which is a concern because they may think they are healthy and thus pass the disease onto others. If left untreated, however, Hep C will eventually develop into chronic infection,which involves slow but serious damage to the liver, often resulting in cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can get so serious that it may require liver replacement or even result in death, so for those who think they may have been exposed to Hep C, this is no laughing matter.
Furthermore, Hep C can often exist for several years, much like HIV, with no noticeable symptoms and still be damaging the liver severely though the damage may not be detected until many years later.
To avoid these serious complications, get tested if there is any chance, whatsoever, that you may have come into contact with the virus that causes Hep C.
As mentioned, most people who have Hep C are unaware of it and thus do not seek help. There are some people, however, who do experience odd symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Running an unexplained fever
- Feeling tired all the time
- Not wanting to eat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Dark colored urine and excrement
- Joint pain
- Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes
Obviously, many of these symptoms are non-specific. Therefore, their presence or absence cannot be counted on to diagnose Hep C. If they are present, they may point to another sexually transmitted disease or other problem, however, and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
The bottom line is that, with or without symptoms, most people, especially those who fall into one or more of the high risk categories should undergo Hep C testing.