Overview of Hepatitis C
What is hepatitis C?
Well, the virus that causes hepatitis C is known as the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It infects the liver chronically. As the infection progresses, it may result in liver cancer, liver damage, and even failure of the liver.
Hepatitis C virus is bloodborne. What this means is that the virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood.
The commonest way of contracting HCV is via the sharing of medical equipment like needles.
HCV can also spread when you share personal effects that have made contact with infected blood. However, the chances of this occurring are low.
HCV cannot be spread by holding hands, kissing, or sharing dining utensils with an infected person.
It is important to note that HCV is not a sexually transmitted infection. There’s no doubt that you can contract it through rough or unprotected sex with an infected person, but the risk is quite low.
Risk factors for hepatitis C
The commonest risk factors for hepatitis C virus are injection drug use and a blood transfusion gotten before 1992.
Blood donations made before 1992 were usually not tested for the hepatitis C virus. Infections skyrocketed when people were transfused with HCV-positive blood.
Presently, medical facilities screen all donated blood for the hepatitis C virus, among others.
Tattoos constitute the third risk factor. In a particular study, there were more tattoos among HCV patients than people who didn’t have the virus.
This controlled study also examined people who may contract HCV due to the transfusion of contaminated blood and drug use.
Exposure to contaminated needles also constitutes a risk for HCV infection.
How to prevent HCV infection from tattoos
Getting a tattoo involves making small needle punctures on your skin. Of course, this can cause you to bleed. After making each puncture, the tattooist will insert drops of pigment into the layers of your skin.
If there is infected blood in the pigment or on the needle, then the HCV could be transmitted during the tattoo process.
You must take the following precautions before settling down for a tattoo:
Hire a good tattooist
Your tattoos should be done in a clean environment. Go to studios that are run by licensed tattooists with a good reputation for clean, healthy work.
Use protective gear
Insist that the tattooist wears protective gear and gloves during the procedure. This is a preventive measure for the spread of blood.
Tattoos may not be done in a medical environment, but your artist should be as careful as a doctor.
Insist that new equipment be used
Ensure that your artist uses a fresh needle taken from a sealed, and sterilized packet.
If you are unsure of the needle he or she is using, request for another one and let him or her know why you are asking. Also, ensure that new pigments are used.
Your healing process should be made a priority
Be serious about your healing. Take steps to ensure that you’re properly healed. Do not take off your bandages for at least 2-3 weeks. This is the time that it takes for your new tattoo to fully heal. Never pick at scabs that occurred during the tattoo process.
Consult your doctor without delay if you develop any symptoms of an infection, like pus drainage or redness, or if someone else’s blood touches your tattoo.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Most cases of HCV go undiagnosed or undetected for a long time, even years. Why is this so? Well, the hepatitis C virus and infection only cause symptoms after the infection has made significant progress.
Most times, the virus is discovered after liver damage. The liver damage is in turn found through routine checkups and testing.
At the initial stage of HCV infection, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pains in the joints and muscle
- Lack of appetite
- Discolored urine (usually dark)
- Abdominal pain
The advanced stage of HCV infection is characterized by symptoms such as:
- Swelling in your legs and arms
- Weight loss
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Accumulation of fluid in your abdomen
- The blood vessels have a spider-like appearance
- Slurred speech
How to get a tattoo if you have HCV
If you are HCV positive and wish to get a tattoo, you will follow the same rules for preventing infection. Inform your artist that you are HCV positive.
If the artist declines, hire another one who is trained in tattooing HCV positive people.
Ensure the artist uses new equipment for your operation. Watch as he or she opens the equipment or sterilizes it. Also, ensure that he or she wears gloves during the process. After tattooing, cover up with sterile gauze until it heals fully.