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What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C in Women

What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C in Women

by: Dr. Shweta Mendiratta
Associate Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology

Hepatitis is a serious infection that affects the liver. It is contagious and is caused by a virus. It can lead to serious, long-term illnesses. There are different types of hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A, B, D, and E. Among the different viruses, hepatitis C is the most serious because it can be chronic and cause severe liver damage. During the initial infection people often have mild or no symptoms. Early on chronic infection typically has no symptoms. Over many years however, it leads to liver disease and sometimes cirrhosis.

How can Hepatitis spread?

  • The hepatitis C virus is spread by direct contact with infected blood. This can happen while sharing needles or sharing household items that come into contact with blood.
  • A baby can be infected during birth if the mother has hepatitis C infection.
  • It also can be spread during unprotected sex, but it is harder to spread the virus this way. Sexual transmission of Hepatitis C is uncommon.
  • Similar to HIV, Hepatitis C may be more efficiently transmitted through anal sex than through vaginal intercourse because of the greater risk of blood exposure.
  • However, Hepatitis C is more likely to be sexually transmitted when a woman is having her menstrual period (from the menstruating woman to her partner) due to the presence of blood. It is not spread by casual contact or breastfeeding.
  • Also getting a tattoo or piercing with unsterilized equipment also increases the risk of infection.

How is Hepatitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is done by blood testing to look for either antibodies to the virus or it’s RNA. Testing is recommended in all people who are at risk of having hepatitis C. If a woman is infected with the hepatitis C virus, then her baby usually will be tested when he or she is at least 18 months of age.

Symptoms associated with Hepatitis:

Hepatitis C affects both men and women. As a whole, the symptoms and complications of the disease are the same for both sexes. But the virus can affect women differently.

Symptoms: Acute Hepatitis –Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea
  • Slight abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Many women don’t have symptoms until the disease comesis in a later stage. Women with signs of the disease in the early stage may brush off symptoms or attribute them to other factors, such as anemia, depression, or menopause.

Chronic Hepatitis slowly develops several symptoms like

  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Headache
  • Itchy skin
  • Light colored feces that may contain pus
  • Yellow skin, tongue, white of eyes (jaundice)

Chronic and Mild Hepatitis C :

Some hepatitis C infections are acute and the infection improves on its own without treatment within a few months. Acute infections are more common in women. Hepatitis C can also be chronic, in which infection doesn’t clear on its own, but rather progresses and damages the liver. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis include: bruising or bleeding, itchy skin, fluid retention in the stomach, swollen legs, unexplained weight loss, spider veins. Women seem to be more protected against liver cirrhosis than men. Female hormone estrogen protects women from liver damage which makes them less susceptible to cirrhosis. The protective effect may diminish after menopause, when women’s bodies produce less estrogen. Out of those infected, about 85% will develop chronic Hepatitis C infection. The other 15% are lucky; their bodies get rid of the virus without medication. This phenomenon is known as spontaneous clearance. More people dying annually because of Hepatitis C rather than HIV- the virus that causes AIDS; but Hepatitis C education pales in comparison with Hepatitis C. Increased public health efforts have steadily improved Hepatitis C awareness, but most we still have a far way to go.

Prevention & Vaccination for Hepatitis C:

Talking about the treatment part then, there is no such vaccine to protect against the hepatitis C virus. Avoiding certain types of behavior is the only way to prevent infection. Hepatitis C is most common in people who were  born between 1945 and 1965. Therefore, all people in this age group should be tested for hepatitis C infection. And if they are suspected then the precautionary steps must be taken. IN ACUTE CONDITION antiviral and supportive care can be given. Regular monitoring for signs of liver disease progression and treatment with antiviral medications can be given in chronic condition

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