There is no doubt that hepatitis C is a damaging and dangerous disease that has wreaked havoc on many lives worldwide.
But fortunately, hepatitis C is entirely preventable. By knowing how the virus spreads and by taking precautionary measures to protect your health, you can rest assured that this disease will not put your life at risk.
Basic Hepatitis C Prevention Strategies
Hepatitis is transmitted through infected blood, which is why following these tips is absolutely crucial if you do not want to fall victim to this disease:1,2
• Stop using illicit drugs. Not just the injectable types, but all dangerous recreational drugs in general, as they can be addictive and potentially fatal.
• If you need to take drugs intravenously (IV), never share your needles or syringes with another person. Make sure that your equipment is always sterile, and that you wash your hands thoroughly before handling them.
• Be careful when getting body piercings or tattoos. If you choose to have either of these done, make sure that you find a reputable shop and that a licensed professional performs the procedure.
Ask the staff how they clean their equipment and make sure that only sterile needles are used. If they refuse to answer these questions, look for another place.
• Avoid sharing personal items that may have been contaminated with blood. These include toothbrushes, nail clippers and razors.
• If you are a healthcare provider or work in a clinic, laboratory or hospital, be careful when handling needle sticks. Do not put a needle back in the cover after using it, and make sure to place it in a specially designed and puncture-proof container.
Always follow all safety protocols and make sure to keep your work area clean at all times.
• Practice safe sex. Avoid engaging in unprotected sex, especially with multiple partners. If your partner has HCV, make sure to use a latex condom to protect yourself from being infected.
Hepatitis C Testing: When Is It Necessary?
It wasn’t until 1989 when the hepatitis C virus was identified, and widespread screening for this virus only became standardized three years later (in 1992).3
Today, blood donors routinely go through hepatitis C testing before they are allowed to donate. However, those who have donated or received blood prior to 1992 have not undergone this testing.
If you have donated blood or received a blood transfusion before 1992, consult a physician to have yourself tested for this illness. This will help you determine if you are carrying the virus and if your liver health is in jeopardy. Those who use or share unsterilized needles, had a tattoo or piercing done in an unsanitary place or work in healthcare setting should also get tested. Here are the types of hepatitis C tests available today:4
• Hepatitis C antibody test — This is the first test that physicians will typically order, and it works by looking for hepatitis C antibodies in your bloodstream. If they’re present, it means that the virus is as well. But this does not necessarily mean that there’s an active, current infection.
• Hepatitis C RNA qualitative test — This will look for particles from the nucleus of the virus cells, which are called ribonucleic acid (RNA).
• Hepatitis C genotyping test — This will help determine the specific genotype of your illness, which can then help tailor your treatment protocol.
Can You Prevent Hepatitis C From Progressing to Liver Damage?
If you unfortunately already have hepatitis C, don’t fret — there are ways to prevent this illness (especially if it’s still in the acute stage) from causing irreversible harm to your liver. Following healthy lifestyle strategies and bolstering your immune system are the best techniques to avoid cirrhosis, liver failure or cancer.
• Consume a diet composed of raw vegetables, moderate amounts of protein and high-quality healthy fats (not trans fats). In addition, avoid excessive sugar consumption, as sugar can tax your liver in the same way that alcohol does.
• Do not drink alcohol. Any amount of alcohol can be detrimental to your health, especially if you have hepatitis C.
• Avoid consuming excessive amounts of sodium, which can store fluids in your blood vessels.
• Avoid taking medications that may cause liver damage. If the disease is still in its early stage, your body still has a chance to fight off the infection by itself, without the use of conventional drugs.
You should also make a conscious effort not to expose other people to your blood. Cover any wounds and do not share your personal items. Refrain from donating blood, semen or body organs. If you’re having a procedure done, make sure you inform healthcare workers that you have the virus.5 By doing this, you can protect other people from falling victim to this illness.