Acute hepatitis C increases in some age groups, decreases in others

New research announced Aug. 9 found that of those diagnosed with acute hepatitis C, only one in three with health insurance receive treatment, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). Without treatment, liver disease, liver cancer, and death can occur. In 2019, hepatitis C (commonly abbreviated “HCV” for hepatitis C virus) contributed to the deaths of 14,000 people in US CDC reports that acute hepatitis C diagnoses increased by 31% among people aged 40 to 49 and 23% in 2019. people aged 30 to 39. However, the rate of acute hepatitis C has fallen in the 20-29 age group for the first time in a decade.

Hepatitis C, a virus, is carried through the bloodstream, eventually causing liver damage. Of the seven types of HCV, type 1 is the most common in the United States. According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the most common causes of HCV are sharing hypodermic needles with an infected person, direct contact with a person’s blood or open wounds. infected or accidental puncture with a needle that has been used by an infected person. Additionally, unsterile needles used during the tattooing process, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or razors shared with someone with HCV and having sex with an infected person can trigger contamination. Hepatitis C can also appear in children whose mothers are infected during childbirth.

The risk increases in people who have used needles to inject drugs, who have inhaled street drugs, who have had kidney dialysis, and who have been diagnosed with HIV. Those with multiple sex partners or a history of sexually transmitted diseases are also at higher risk. Employees and residents of prisons or in a profession where contact with infected blood is possible may also be more susceptible to infection, as may people with tattoos or piercings.

Hepatitis C and its impact on the cardiovascular system

Johns Hopkins University Medicine reports that a 2015 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases shows that atherosclerosis, or the buildup of calcium and fatty plaque in the arteries, is more likely to occur in people with hepatitis C. Atherosclerosis often leads to stroke and heart attack. Additionally, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) states that the rate of cardiovascular disease increases in younger men, especially when they are diagnosed with hepatitis C. In other research, the American Heart Association ( AHA) reported that dilated cardiomyopathy is a cardiovascular disease. problems that often occur with acute hepatitis C. Cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump blood properly to other parts of the body. Eventually, the heart weakens and heart failure may occur.

Symptoms and Treatment

Sometimes there are no symptoms of acute hepatitis C. Due to its acute nature, symptoms may appear as late as two months after exposure and may be present for a few weeks up to three months. If symptoms do appear, they are often obvious.

Symptoms of HCV include yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), bruising, bleeding, and itchy skin. Lack of appetite, fatigue, buildup of abdominal fluid, and swelling in the legs may also be signs. Dark-colored urine, spider-like appearance of blood vessels, and confusion, drowsiness, or slurred speech may also be symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic states that acute hepatitis C leads to chronic hepatitis in more than fifty percent of cases and that treatment greatly reduces the likelihood of the chronic stage of the disease. In a three-year period ending in 2016, an estimated 2.4 million people in the United States were living with hepatitis C. An estimated 57,500 cases of acute hepatitis C occurred in 2019.

The period for acute HCV is considered up to six months after infection. In 20 to 35% of patients, the virus disappears spontaneously. Treatment may include certain medications and therapies designed to prevent HCV from becoming chronic prescribed by doctors for each individual case.

Preventive measures for acute hepatitis C include avoiding practices known to spread it, such as sharing needles, and practicing care in workplaces where it may exist.

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Omar P. Haqqani is the Chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Midland Vascular Health Clinics.

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