No person can live without a liver. Dr. G. Anton Decker, a gastroenterologist and chief medical officer of the Banner Medical Group in Phoenix, says, "If you're healthy, you're probably not even aware of what your liver's doing."1 The liver is actually one of the hardest-working organs in your body, as it performs hundreds of functions. It digests food, stores nutrients and energy, fights infections and eliminates harmful toxins from your blood.2 Decker even refers to it as the "Grand Central station" of your body.
So if a potentially dangerous disease like hepatitis C threatens to take over your liver — and your overall health — then you need to take the necessary actions to ensure that your liver continues to function properly. Discovered in 1989,3 hepatitis C is a dangerous liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, which can spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as through blood infusions or sharing of contaminated needles.
It ranges in severity — the disease can manifest as a mild illness that lasts only a few weeks or months, or it may progress into a serious lifelong illness.4
Hepatitis C Statistics: How Prevalent Is This Disease?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 30,000 cases of acute hepatitis C infections are reported every year. In 2015, approximately 3.5 million people in the country were found to have this disease.5 The numbers are more alarming globally, as anywhere between 130 million and 150 million hepatitis C cases are reported each year. The disease is highly prevalent in areas like North Africa, Central and East Asia and the Middle East.6
Some of the countries with high rates of chronic hepatitis C infections include Egypt (22 percent), Pakistan (4.8 percent) and China (3.2 percent).7 What's more worrisome is that 50 percent of those who have this infection are unaware of their condition — until it's too late.8
Hepatitis C Patients Show No Symptoms Until the Disease Has Already Worsened
It can be difficult to diagnose acute hepatitis C because it lacks definitive symptoms. In fact, more than two-thirds of people who become infected exhibit no symptoms. The incubation period (time from exposure to the onset of symptoms) is between two weeks to six months.9 Should symptoms manifest, they are usually similar to those of other viral infections. These include abdominal pain, joint pain, fever, nausea and fatigue. In some cases, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and clay-colored stools may also be seen.10,11
However, once the virus stays in your blood for a year after the acute infection period, it becomes a chronic infection. This is what makes this disease extremely damaging because if left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.12 Hepatitis C is actually the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the U.S. today.13
If You Love Your Liver (and Your Health), Start Reading These Articles Right Away
Because there are usually no telltale signs until it's too late, hepatitis C is a dangerous disease that you should be aware of. Staying well-educated about this ailment, plus learning to listen to your body for potential warning signs, is the best way to avoid hepatitis C or, if you already have it, severe complications from it.
These articles will provide you with substantial information about hepatitis C and help you learn more about its symptoms, risk factors, causes and what hepatitis C can do to your body. You'll also discover useful pointers on how you can live with hepatitis C, as well as how to prevent this ailment from wreaking havoc on your liver — and overall health.