Hepatitis C (HCV) is a chronic infectious disease of the liver. Symptoms may not appear until there is extensive liver damage. Addiction treatment may help prevent further liver damage and/or reduce progression of the disease. Treating a drug addiction or alcoholism can also help prevent those who do not yet have hepatitis C from acquiring the infection.
If you suffer from hepatitis C and addiction you can arrest the progression of both diseases with treatment. Take back your life now and manage the hepatitis C. Call Recovery Connection and speak with a trained coordinator who can help you find a quality medically based treatment program. 866-812-8231. Don’t wait another day to start living in the solution.
What is Hepatitis C?
You’ve heard of the disease, but what is Hepatitis C really? Hepatitis C is a chronic liver infection caused by a virus. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) scars the liver causing liver cancer and cirrhosis, which creates inflammation and fibrosis. The inflammation and fibrosis prevents the liver from functioning properly.
Hepatitis C is spread through direct contact with infected blood. Sharing needles or straws while using drugs, receiving blood transfusions (before 1992), needle stick accidents among health care workers, having unprotected sexual intercourse, and any other blood-to-blood contact increases the risk of hepatitis C infection.
An infection of hepatitis C is diagnosed by testing for HCV anti-bodies (anti-HCV) in the blood. Anti-HCV in the bloodstream indicates that there has been an exposure to the virus. This exposure could be either a previous infection or an ongoing hepatitis C infection. After a positive antibody test, genetic testing for the hepatitis C virus (RNA tests) will confirm presence of the actual virus rather than just antibodies to the virus. The National Institute of Health has estimated that approximately 1.6% of Americans have the HCV antibody.
Hepatitis C can be an asymptomatic condition for many years because the virus stays active in the body without recognizable symptoms. Some people don’t experience symptoms until after they have significant liver damage. Hepatitis C symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, joint pain, and headaches
- Nausea, aversion to certain foods, or unexplained weight loss
- Psychological disorders, including depression
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
A healthy liver filters toxins and waste products from the blood at a rate of about 1.5 quarts per minute, or 540 gallons a day. The liver stores certain nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and iron and helps control cholesterol, hormones, and blood sugar levels. It also helps the body digest food by producing the bile stored in the gallbladder.
Hepatitis C can be an asymptomatic condition for many years because the virus stays active in the body without recognizable symptoms.
Hepatitis C prevents healthy liver function by attacking liver cells and reproducing itself. When the body tries to fight the virus, it sends lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to the liver. Lymphocytes cause the liver to swell (inflammation). Long term inflammation can damage liver cells and cause cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis can cause blood to back up into the spleen, destroying healthy blood cells. A damaged liver also will not produce enough bile to process nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as most fats. Ultimately, hepatitis C prevents the liver from removing toxins from the body or making blood proteins that sustain life. At this point, a liver transplant may be needed. However, if one is suffering from active addiction and hepatitis C, then he or she will not be eligible for a liver transplant.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Hepatitis C
A high percentage of those with drug and alcohol addiction have hepatitis C. This is due to the addict’s and alcoholic’s inability to exercise proper judgment while intoxicated. This lack of judgment leads to risky behaviors such as sharing straws to snort drugs, sharing needles, or risky sexual behavior. Even when sober, an alcoholic or drug addicted person may exercise poor judgment due to cravings. For example, in order to get money for drugs or alcohol, the person may prostitute himself or herself.
Drug addiction and alcohol abuse damage an already compromised liver. The immune system is also inhibited by addiction, which makes it more difficult for the body to fight-off the hepatitis C infection. The longer addiction treatment is delayed, the more likely significant alcoholic hepatitis C symptoms and permanent liver damage will occur.
Alcoholic Hepatitis is caused by consuming too much alcohol over time. This usually occurs after an individual has been drinking heavily for many years. Alcoholic Hepatitis causes an inflammation of the liver. This can have serious effects on your overall health and well-being. Some of the effects that can occur as a result of alcoholic hepatitis are:
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Failure
Addiction Treatment and Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C and addiction, sufferers whether due to drugs or alcohol abuse, can help alleviate symptoms of hepatitis C by following some simple guidelines while in drug rehab and in recovery, by:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Eating healthy foods to maintain weight and energy levels
- Meeting with a nutritionist to design a healthy eating plan while in drug rehab
- Drinking plenty of water
- Reducing salt intake
- Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, as infection with another strain of hepatitis can cause more liver damage
Looking For Treatment?
Any drug treatment program or alcohol rehab program should be accredited and complete with its own drug and alcohol detox. Also, quality drug rehabs have medical staff on site, 24 hours a day to address any hepatitis C or other medical conditions and/or emergencies. Recovery Connection can assist you in locating drug and alcohol treatment providers. Call us at 866-812-8231.
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