Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver". Hepatitis C essentially means an infection with the Hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C virus size = 0.000 004cm
Most patients with hepatitis C do not have symptoms and/or do not feel different from normal. By the time the symptoms do develop, liver damage is usually severe.
It is important to note that the absence of symptoms does not mean hepatitis C nor liver damage are under control.
The hepatitis C virus itself does not damage the liver. Liver damage occurs due to the body's immune system trying to fight the hepatitis C virus. Liver damage can be measured by blood tests such as ALT (also known as SGPT).
If liver damage is prolonged, the liver becomes scarred (liver cirrhosis), which can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and early death.
All these complications are potentially life-threatening.
In Singapore, the majority of hepatitis C patients are intravenous drug users.
Today, with the availability of potent antiviral medications, all patients should be evaluated for treatment. With early detection and appropriate therapy, most patients can be cured of the disease.
All persons with Hepatitis C should undergo regular medical follow-up, the purpose of which is to check for liver cancer and any active liver inflammation. During follow-up, an ultrasound will help to screen for liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Early detection of liver cancer gives the best chance for cure. Blood tests should be done routinely, including liver function tests to detect liver inflammation, and alpha fetoprotein for liver cancer.
Patients are advised to avoid alcohol and/or traditional medicines as these substances may cause additional liver damage. Patients should notify their doctors of their hepatitis C and go for routine medical check-ups.