The name “hepatitis C” carries strong connotations of IV drug use, homelessness and sexual promiscuity. However, these are simplistic views on the matter. Not only can hepatitis C stem from a number of sources, but it can affect both men and women who don’t engage in much (or any) risky behavior at all. Because of this, it’s important to fully understand the disease and its implications.
First, we’ll take a look at what hep C is and how common it is, as well as transmission and risk factors, before going over symptoms. Lastly, let’s take a look at the importance of testing and how you can do this more easily than ever. If you read one part of this article, read that!
Otherwise, let’s get started.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Once you contract it, the virus will cause a temporary and acute, where the virus increases dramatically in a short amount of time, which may cause an immune response that results in symptoms (see below). After time, these symptoms go away, and the hepatitis C virus enters a latent stage, where it can become a chronic condition. It is milder in this form, and may go undetected for decades, but it is still capable of doing considerable damage.
How Common Is Hep C?
Hepatitis C is fairly common, both around the world and in the United States. As Healthline reports, “Most people (about 70% – 80%) with an acute Hepatitis C infection do not experience any symptoms or show signs of the infection. If Hepatitis C symptoms do occur, they usually appear within two weeks to six months after being exposed to the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).” (1)
How Is It Transmitted and Who’s at Risk?
Hepatitis C is a bloodborne infection, which means there must be blood to blood contact in order for the disease to spread. The most likely situations in which it will spread today are from sharing needles, needlestick injuries (accidental needle pricks, which usually occurs in a healthcare setting) and from mothers to babies in the womb. It is possible for the disease to spread through sharing razors and toothbrushes, and you can also contract it in tattoo parlors that don’t have high enough sanitation standards. Sexual intercourse can spread the disease as well, especially if there are open sources that expose blood.
Before 1992, hepatitis C frequently spread through organ transplants and blood transfusions. However, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “widespread screening of the blood supply in the United States virtually eliminated this source of infection.” (2) For that reason, the people most at risk are healthcare workers and IV drug users.
What Are the Symptoms of Hep C in Men vs Women?
The symptoms of this disease are quite similar in men and women – but that’s only if they appear at all. According to the American Liver Foundation, “Most people (about 70% – 80%) with an acute Hepatitis C infection do not experience any symptoms or show signs of the infection. If Hepatitis C symptoms do occur, they usually appear within two weeks to six months after being exposed to the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).” When symptoms appear, they include (3):
- Feeling very tired
- Sore muscles
- Joint pain
- Nausea or poor appetite
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of skin and eyes
There is one main effect of hepatitis C that differs between men and women, which is that women can pass the disease on to a baby during delivery. Other than that, the disease really looks the same in both sexes.
Why Should You Test?
You’ve no doubt heard about the importance of testing, but you may not yet take it seriously. After all, how likely are you really to get an STD?
Unfortunately, the answer is “very.” According to the American Sexual Health Association, “One in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 20 million new STIs occur every year in this country, half of those among young people aged 15–24.” Moreover, “CDC estimates that undiagnosed STIs cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year.” (4)
That’s a lot of downsides. On a more specific level, hepatitis C can lead to (5):
- Toxic chemical buildup in the brain, which can lead to moodiness, mental confusion, slurred speech and unconsciousness
- Sleep disorders that may result from immune and thyroid problems
- Liver inflammation that may make your liver tender
- Inefficient intestines, which leads to poor nutrition and discomfort
- Bladder and bowel problems, leading to difficulty producing waste and abnormal waste
- Jaundice, or yellow skin and eyes resulting from liver malfunction
- Musty mouth from toxic buildup
- Unhealthy blood and spleen, which can result in anemia and bleeding problems
- Weight loss from thyroid function, poor nutrition and other issues
- Fluid buildup in the stomach
- Loss of hair, dry skin, weak and cracking nails
Even before full cirrhosis of the liver and the potentially deadly effects therefore, hepatitis C is clearly a serious disease well worth avoiding. Sadly, “Even though young people account for half of new STI cases, a recent survey showed only about 12% were tested for STIs in the last year.” (6) That goes for hep C as well, which is still considerably underdocumented in the US and around the world.
The answer? Getting tested … which is where a home test kit comes in.
What Is a Home Test Kit?
Many people are less than enthusiastic about the idea of booking a visit to the doctor every time they should theoretically get tested (when they have unprotected sex, when they switch partners, every year in high-risk populations or for people with multiple partners). We understand that so many visits might just feel like too much, which is where a home test kit comes in.
With iDNA, you can test for STDs in the comfort and privacy of your own home, then mail in your sample to be analyzed in our cutting-edge labs. You don’t need to do anything unless you get a positive result, saving you a lot of time and energy running to and from the doctor’s office!
Ready to take charge of your sexual health and get tested today? Order your iDNA kit now!
(1) Hepatitis C by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/facts-statistics-infographic#other-facts
(2) Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm#C1
(3) Diagnosing Hepatitis C. (2017). Retrieved from https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/hepatitis-c/diagnosing-hepatitis-c/#signs-symptoms
(4) Statistics. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/statistics/
(5) The Effects of Hepatitis C on Your Body. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/effects-on-the-body#1
(6) Statistics. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/statistics/