Chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection

What is Chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection?

Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a type of liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is a liver infection that can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Chronic HCV infection is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and increase the risk of liver cancer and other health problems.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Chronic HCV Infection

The most common symptoms of chronic HCV infection are fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal pain. Other symptoms may include dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), skin rashes, itching, joint pain, and depression. However, most people with chronic HCV infection do not experience any symptoms.

Chronic HCV infection is usually diagnosed with a blood test. This test looks for the presence of antibodies and the HCV virus in the blood. If the virus is present, other tests can be done to determine the severity of the infection. These may include a liver biopsy or imaging tests such as ultrasonography or computed tomography (CT) scan.

Treatment Options for Chronic HCV Infection

The most effective treatment for chronic HCV infection is a combination of medications called combination therapy. This treatment consists of two or more drugs that help prevent the virus from replicating. This can help reduce the amount of virus in the body and can even eliminate the virus completely in some cases.

  • Interferon: This is a type of protein that helps to stimulate the immune system and helps to fight the virus.
  • Ribavirin: This is an antiviral drug taken orally to help reduce the amount of the virus in the body.
  • Direct-acting antivirals (DAA): These are drugs that target specific parts of the virus and help to stop its replication. These drugs are usually used in combination with other drugs to increase effectiveness.

Other treatments for chronic HCV infection may include lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Some people may also need treatments to reduce symptoms or to prevent complications from the disease.

Outlook for Chronic HCV Infection

Most people with chronic HCV infection can be treated successfully with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. However, some people may not respond to the treatment or may have a relapse of the virus. If the infection progresses to cirrhosis, the only effective treatment may be a liver transplant.