Hepatitis C is a blood-borne pathogen that attacks the liver of infected individuals. Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to significant liver damage and death.
About Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is the most dangerous form of the three types of hepatitis virus because of its effects on the liver. Additionally, unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine or cure for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis is spread by contact with infected blood. Health care workers who have frequent contact with blood and body fluids are particularly at risk. Hepatitis C is particularly rampant among illicit drug users because of infected needles.
Individuals infected with hepatitis C often experience few if any initial complications. Possible symptoms and/or complications include fever, headache, tiredness and muscle pain. It is within the first six months when hepatitis is most easily treated to prevent chronic infection.
The First 10 years
Some people who are unknowingly infected with Hepatitis C or who have treatment-resistant (chronic) disease may experience periodic dull pain in the area surrounding the liver in the years after initial infection. However, because the pain is often intermittent or slight, individuals often do not seek medical attention.
Onset Of Life-Threatening Symptoms
Individuals with untreated and chronic hepatitis C begin to notice severe symptoms usually within 10 to 20 years after infection. After the disease has attacked the liver for many years, the liver will be significantly damaged and liver pain will increase. A liver transplant may be required.
The life expectancy for hepatitis C sufferers is unclear. According to the National Hepatitis C Coalition, this is because the disease effects people so differently. However, among those with significant liver scarring, 25 percent go on to develop hepatitis-related cancer of the liver and/or liver failure.