How does Hepatitis C spread? Am I at risk?
It is caused by blood to blood contact. Risk factors are:
- Usage of intravenous drugs and sharing of needles
- Receiving blood transfusion from an unregulated blood bank
- Contact with infected blood or used needle by accident
- Contamination of sterilised medical equipment
- Chronic kidney disease patients being treated by haemodialysis
- Unprotected sex with partners who have not been tested
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
The biggest hurdle of Hepatitis C is that during an early phase of the disease, the patient feels no symptoms and is absolutely healthy. Eventually, in 15-20% of Hepatitis C patients, the liver undergoes cirrhosis, giving rise to symptoms such as:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the sclera in the eyes & the skin, noticeably the fingernails & palm of the hands, water in the abdomen (Ascites), swelling in the legs)
- Loss of appetite
- Constant skin irritation/itching
If untreated, the liver eventually goes into failure and may require a liver transplant.
Can liver transplant help treat Hepatitis C?
As we know, the biggest hurdle in the treatment of Hepatitis C is catching it in its early phase, when the patient is asymptomatic. At this stage, these patients can be treated by directly using anti-viral medication (DAA).
If the patient has cirrhosis and liver failure, the most obvious treatment option that will give viable results is getting a liver transplant. In the US, Europe & Japan, Pakistan, the most common indication for a liver transplant is Hepatitis C-related liver disease.
As is with any surgery, transplantation of an organ is unique for everyone. Your liver transplant doctor will run a few diagnostic tests to assess your fitness for liver transplantation. Parameters that are evaluated include complete blood tests, medical history and support system of the patient.
The liver might come from a living person or from a deceased donor (Brain dead patient). In the case of a deceased donor, the entire liver is transplanted in comparison to a living donor, where a portion of a liver is transplanted that regenerates into a new liver.
After the liver transplant, the patient may have to take hepatitis C treatment (Oral drugs) for short duration. Though a majority of patients lead a normal life, however, some 10-20% patients may have complications, which your doctor will be able to explain you better.