In past years, many individuals learned that they have HCV from a blood test during a routine physical or because they attempted to donate blood. While testing positive for HCV isn’t good news, it’s not all doom, gloom, or a death sentence, either. Here are some important things to remember:
In most people the HCV infection does not disappear spontaneously, so you should be further tested and advised about treatment options. Think positively. The disease progresses over decades, silently killing liver cells and leading to scarring of the liver – called cirrhosis.
Get regular medical attention.
A physician who knows about HCV, a gastroenterologist, hepatologist, or infectious disease specialist can watch for signs of trouble, identify problems and advise you about new treatments.
Avoid contact with blood.
HCV can be transmitted through blood. Cover open cuts, and don’t share razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools, tattoo needles, body piercing instruments, or anything that might have even the smallest amount of blood on it. Be wary of menstrual blood, as well.
Protect your liver.
Your liver is already stressed by the hepatitis virus. Omit or severely limit alcohol use. Alcohol should not be taken with other drugs – especially acetaminophen, the ingredient in Tylenol and a number of other headache and cold remedies. The combination may damage your liver that is already trying to fight off the virus. Check with your doctor before using any medications, including over-the-counter drugs or alternative (herbal) medicines.
Be concerned about sex partners.
While studies have shown the risk of sexual transmission is low between long-term, monogamous couples, people with new or multiple sexual partners should use latex condoms. Inform potential partners that you have the virus. In addition, viral levels in the blood can vary widely or rise in response to immunosuppressive drugs, which would make HCV carriers more infectious at certain times. Virus levels increase when certain medications such as corticosteroids or cyclosporine are taken. People with HCV who take these drugs should discuss precautions needed with their doctor.
Keep yourself updated on current research, information, and treatment. Be aware of your own health status and what your various options are.