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What is hepatitis C?

Generally, hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is a contagious, blood-borne viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver.

When the liver is inflamed or damaged by invasion of hepatitis C virus, its function can be affected. If left untreated, inflammation in the liver tissue can lead to serious damage. Hepatitis C infections can range from acute (a mild illness lasting a few weeks) to chronic (a serious, long-term illness).

Looking to book health tests online? Book an HCV total antibody test here.

What is acute and chronic hepatitis C?

Acute hepatitis C is a mild, short-term illness, usually occurs within the first 6 months after acquisition of hepatitis C. In more than half of the cases, acute infection becomes a long-term, chronic infection.

Whereas, chronic hepatitis Ccan be a lifelong infection if left untreated. Chronic hepatitis C can cause serious life threatening health problems, such as liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

How serious is hepatitis C?

Since many people with hepatitis C infection will never develop any signs or symptoms and hence remain undiagnosed. About 10-20% of persons infected with hepatitis C will go on to develop cirrhosis and less than 5% will actually die of this infection. The good thing is that new medications and treatments to cure hepatitis C are becoming available.

What are the symptoms of acute HCV infection?

Many people newly infected with the hepatitis C virus are asymptomatic. Some people may develop mild symptoms that may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice

What are the symptoms of chronic HCV infection?

Chronic hepatitis C infection is often referred to as a silent infection as there are no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they are non-specific. Hepatitis C usually goes undiagnosed until the virus damages the liver enough to cause the symptoms of liver disease.  Symptoms of chronic infection may include:

  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
  • Spider Like blood vessels on your skin  

Liver disease symptoms may be too mild to be noticed. Book a liver function test and rule out the possibility of having an unhealthy liver now.

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

The hepatitis C virus is usually transmitted through contact with the infected person’s blood. This can happen through:

  • Sharing drug injection equipments like needles and syringes
  • Birth to an infected mother
  • Having sex with an infected person (more often among men who have sex with men)
  • Sharing personal hygiene products contaminated with infectious blood, such as glucose monitors, razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes
  • Health-care procedures that involve invasive procedures
  • Unregulated tattooing
  • Body piercings
  • Blood transfusions and organ transplants

Hepatitis C is not spread by casual contacts such as sharing eating utensils, hugging, holding hands and kissing.  Breastfeeding, sneezing, coughing, food or water also won’t spread it.

Who should be tested for hepatitis C?

Hepatitis screening is recommended for all adults aged 18 years or older and all pregnant women during each pregnancy, people with HIV, people with persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, people with ongoing risk factors including those who have ever injected drugs or received donated blood or organs,  people with medical conditions such as those currently getting maintenance hemodialysis, children born to mothers with hepatitis C infection or any person who requests hepatitis C testing.

What tests are used to diagnose hepatitis C?

The anti-HCV blood test is used to rule out if someone has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. This test looks for antibodies released into the bloodstream in response to the hepatitis C infection. A negative anti-HCV result suggests that a person has never been exposed to the virus. If a person tests positive for anti-HCV, hepatitis C testing is not considered complete unless a follow-up HCV RNA test is done.

Hepatitis C RNA detects the presence and amount of virus in the blood. Qualitative hepatitis C RNA test detects the presence of hepatitis C RNA, while quantitative hepatitis C RNA test measures the amount of hepatitis C RNA.

Another follow up test performed in patients diagnosed with hepatitis C to find the strain of virus is genotype testing. Knowing the amount and strain of hepatitis C in the blood is important to guide treatment.

How to prevent hepatitis C?

At present, there is no vaccine against the hepatitis C virus.  So prevention depends mainly on reducing the risk of exposure to the hepatitis C virus in health care settings and in people at higher risks. To protect yourself from hepatitis C infection you should take the following precautions:

  • Disinfect blood and blood-contaminated surfaces right away and hygienically dispose of blood-stained items such as sanitary napkins and bandages.
  • Practice safe sex. Don’t engage in unprotected sex to prevent exposure to blood during sex.
  • Avoid sharing drug-injecting equipment such as needles and syringes and other personal items that may be contaminated with blood.
  • Be cautious about tattooing, acupuncture, or body piercing.  If you choose to undergo piercing or tattooing, make sure the equipment being used is clean and sterile.
  • Cover any wounds on the skin to keep from spreading infectious blood.

How is hepatitis C managed and treated?

Acute hepatitis C infection does not always need treatment, as the immune response in some people will clear the infection from the body. However, when acute infection becomes chronic, treatment is necessary. The goal of hepatitis C treatment is to clear the hepatitis C virus from the body and prevent further damage to the liver. Use of new antiviral drugs for 8–12 weeks can result in high cure rates of better than 90%, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.

Along with treatment with antiviral medication, it is important for hepatitis C patients to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and regular physical activity, to aid recovery and prevent further liver damage. Don’t take any prescription pills, supplements, herbs or over-the-counter medications without checking with your doctor, as these can potentially damage the liver. Be tested for HIV, because people who are coinfected with both HIV and the hepatitis C virus are very likely to get cirrhosis.

Immunization against hepatitis A and hepatitis B is also recommended as these infections can accelerate chronic liver disease. In some cases, surgery is necessary to treat complications of liver disease. In some patients with advanced liver disease, liver transplantation may be a treatment option.

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Liver problem image

Our liver plays a vital role in our body’s digestive system. Whatever we eat or drink, including medicines, almost all of it passes through the liver. Therefore, we need to treat our Liver right, so that it can stay healthy and do its job effectively. Amid the hectic schedule, it is quite easy for most of us to forget to pay our liver the attention that it rightly deserves.

The liver, situated under the lower ribcage on our right side, is responsible for getting rid of harmful chemicals to cleanse the body, producing liquid called bile which is required for breaking down all the fat from our food. Most importantly it stores glucose which gives us energy to carry out our daily activities. The liver is the only organ in our body that can regenerate itself; a person can donate a part of their liver to another person.  This article will provide you with insights that can help lower the risk of liver problems and eventually other vital organs as well.

Major Liver problems include infectious conditions like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and liver damage caused due to excessive alcohol consumption, like fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Liver failure and liver cancer are fatal diseases that can be caused due to multiple causes, with most cases associated with liver damage and scarring of the liver. All such problems can adversely affect the normal and healthy functioning of the liver, thus proper care and caution is essential when it comes to keeping the liver in good health

6 ways to keep the liver problems at bay:

  • Limit your alcohol intake

Our liver and body can usually cope up with consuming only a certain amount of alcohol.As per the guidelines, men should not go for drinking more than 2 drinks a day and women should limit themselves to just one drink a day. One “standard” drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. For example, around 12 ounces of regular beer. But if you continue to drink more than what your liver can take, it will affect the liver cells; they will not be able to process it and this can lead to liver damage, leading to permanent scarring of the liver. If you continue with excessive drinking, it might cause liver failure too.

  • Get a Liver Function Test regularly

Liver function tests aka Liver Panel, is a simple blood test that can be taken to measure different enzymes, proteins and all other substances that our Liver produces. This simple blood test can reveal much information about your liver health and may be an early indication of liver disease. This allows you to take action in time.

  • Exercise regularly

Though this is something which is important for preventing most lifestyle diseases, we never tend to take this seriously. This helps keep our weight under control, and prevent excess fats from getting stored in our body. Regular exercise can help keep non alcoholic fatty liver disease at bay, a severe condition that can lead to cirrhosis if not taken care of. If currently you are not doing any physical workout, start by doing some daily exercises and slowly and gradually move up towards increasing it to half an hour or an hour daily.

  • Don’t go for fad diets

Following trends, a lot of people go for random diet plans, weight loss pills or protein pills, without understanding the after-effects it can have. Fad diets and pills available without prescription that promise quick weight loss or weight gain might end up harming the Liver in the long run. If in any doubt what can be the perfect diet or tablets to keep the health in check, always ask a doctor or a dietician.

One simply cannot stress over the fact enough that having a balanced diet is important for anyone. Try and avoid saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats as much as possible. Our culture these days is to simply have leftovers or packaged / processed foods, keep a check on that. High levels of cholesterol are identified as common causes leading to fatty liver disease. Therefore it is suggested to eat more fibrous food, like fruits and vegetables and dairy produce for a healthy liver functioning.

Want to check how your diet might have harmed your cholesterol levels. Book a lab test right away.

  • Be careful with medication

We often tend to self diagnose ourselves when it comes to common cold or cough, doing so we take medicines that can affect the liver badly. By not consulting a doctor or a physician, we tend to put our health at risk. Of all the organs present in our body, the liver is most vulnerable to the harmful effects of self-medication. It acts as the main organ that detoxifies whatever medicines go inside our body. Over dose of any medicine, not consulting a doctor, taking herbal supplements can all have irreversible side effects on the liver. Thereby always check with a specialist and avoid compromising your liver health.

  • Get vaccinated

Vaccinations protect yourselves against Hepatitis A, B & C. Always consult your family doctor or physician before getting these shots. Hepatitis A can be caused due to contaminated food or water and Hepatitis B can be because of sexual contact or contaminated blood and needles. Remember prevention is better than cure

The liver is wonderfully created to perform countless functions for our body. It protects and nurtures our body every day, from getting rid of toxins, giving the body the desired energy, fighting viruses and other infections to maintaining mineral and vitamin supply in our body. All of these are not possible without a healthy liver. It is a complex yet resilient organ of our body that needs to be taken care of day in and day out.

Schedule that long-pending liver health test now. Book here.

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Caring for your Elderly loved one at Home

Aging is a normal physiological process. However, body organs also age with the advancing age, and their functioning keep declining. Old age is also a sensitive phase. Elderly people need care and comfort to lead a stress free and healthy life. Caring for the elderly at home is a responsibility that needs you to know about elderly care solutions and take informed decisions.   

Elderly care amid COVID-19

The WHO has informed us about old age and COVID-19. The risk of getting severe COVID-19 and getting hospitalized increases with increasing age. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. Elderly aging 85 or older are at the greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Worried about your elderly loved one being sick and think it could be COVID-19? Get COVID-19 test done from the comfort of your home and stay assured.

Health conditions and medications

Many of the elderly people have multiple health conditions. For managing elderly health, ensure that all their medicine prescriptions are filled as needed and refilled in advance. If your elderly loved one is on a number of medicines and find it difficult to identify and take them on scheduled time, simplify their medication taking process by keeping a pill box organizer with compartments labeled with the days of the week along with doses.

Continuous check on health

Around 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Chronic illnesses require regular and timely health check ups to ensure there is no worsening or disease progression.

Make sure to get their health assessed regularly. Now get your loved ones tested from the comfort of your home. Explore here.

A fall-proof home for elderly

Assess your home and do some simple fixes to help them stay safe, and prevent falls and decrease risk of injuries. Most importantly, install handrails and grab bars at the toilet and shower. Place non-skid mats in the shower or any other potential slippery areas of the house. Plug in a few auto-sensor night lights in the home so they are able to see if they wake up at night. Ensure all the cables and wires are safely tucked away to prevent any accidental fall.

Hire help

Older people might need someone to help them with their routine activities such as showering or house cleaning. Some may need medical assistance as well. Do arrange for some help if required, for times you might not be available at home to provide care.

Aging and liver disease

Aging has been shown to increase risk of acute liver injury. Older adults also find it difficult to cope with various liver diseases including fatty liver, alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis C, and liver transplantation. Symptoms of liver dysfunction can include yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice), abdominal pain and swelling, and swelling in the legs and ankles.

Are you a caregiver for an elderly and think their liver health can be compromised? Book a liver function test now.

Encourage physical activity in elderly

Keeping physically active and exercise can go a long way to help your elderly stay fit and fine. Exercising helps increase stamina, improve organ functionality, and prevent worsening of lifestyle-related health issues. While planning their physical activity, do consider their bone and joint conditions. Many of the elderly people might find it difficult to move due to joint pain and stiffness. Talk to an expert doctor to find out which type of activity can fit best in their lifestyle.

Healthy eating for seniors

Older people might have sensitive guts and a delicate digestive system. Make sure to include enough green vegetables and fruits in their diet. In case they are facing problems of bloating, acidity, and gas, taking a low-carb diet can be of great help. Your elderly must include dairy products like milk, paneer, and curd to get enough calcium. If they find milk difficult to digest, you can opt for soy milk. Avoid high-salt food as they are rich in sodium and interfere with their heart health.

Risk of heart disease is directly linked to levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. A lipid panel helps check the level of these lipids in the blood. Keep an eye on heart health with a lipid profile test. 

Restrict the elderly people from venturing into public places

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, consider their level of risk before deciding to let them go out and ensure they are taking steps to protect themselves. Avoid places where taking protective measures may be difficult, such as places where social distancing can’t be maintained. Remember, the more people they interact with, the more closely they interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. In case visiting a public setting is unavoidable, ensure safety by wearing an N95 mask, washing hands often or using hand sanitiser and maintaining a 6-feet distance from people. As a caregiver, you should take steps to prevent them from catching coronavirus infection in the first place. Remember, they are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

The final word Apart from these, a very important part of elderly care is to spend enough time with them and keep connecting regularly. Never let your loved one feel alone or aloof. A regular talk from you can motivate them for self-care, stay happy, and boost their mental health. 

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