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"What is the worst symptom of Hepatitis C?"
I have just been diagnosed with hepatitis C and I was lucky enough to be diagnosed before I have had many symptoms (by way of a blood screening.) I'm a man in my late 30s - what symptoms should I expect to deal with as I age? What are the most difficult symptoms to deal with?
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver, and most often patients are asymptomatic when they initially contract the virus. Unfortunately, the majority of patients exposed to Hepatitis C become chronic carriers, meaning that the virus remains in the bloodstream permanently (unless treatment is successful). Of those patients who become chronic carriers, approximately 1 in 5 will eventually develop cirrhosis, which is when the liver becomes nodular and full of scar tissue.
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This transformation to cirrhosis can take many years, and often the symptoms of cirrhosis do not become evident for several decades after the initial transmission. These symptoms vary greatly on an individual basis depending on the severity of the infection and the degree of damage inflicted upon the liver. Symptoms of cirrhosis can include difficulty sleeping, fluid in the abdomen (ascites), confusion, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes due to increased levels of bilirubin in the blood), and easy bruising. If you are otherwise healthy (without active drug or alcohol abuse), you may be a good candidate for treatment of your infection. You should talk with your primary care doctor and/or a gastroenterologist regarding the specific genotype of your virus and the risks/benefits of a trial of treatment.
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