There are some diseases for which we take treatment as soon as they are detected and the problem gets resolved. But there are some diseases which act as slow poison in our body and gradually they make our body weak. By the time such diseases are detected and we start their treatment, it has been quite late and thus we have to face a number of problems related with their treatment. One of such diseases is the disease of Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by a DNA virus. Hepatitis C is transmitted through physical contact and infected blood. Almost 400 million people suffer from this disease all over the world from which almost 45 million people belong to India.
What exactly is hepatitis C? How does it spread inside our body and how does it make our body weak and hollow? Let’s find out the same from our Ayurvedic expert, Dr. Parmeshwar Arora. Welcome to the show doctor.
Q. Doctor, please give us a complete information on Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C, as the name reveals, is an infectious disease of liver or inflammatory condition of liver caused by a virus C. So, if the infection or inflammation of liver is due to virus C, then this type of infection of liver is called Hepatitis C. Similar to the case of hepatitis B, most of the findings of this condition also are accidental findings. Sometimes during a routine check-up, a person is accidently found to be suffering from Hepatitis C. Hepatitis due to virus C is very uncommon. We rarely find an acute viral hepatitis which is caused by virus C. Often very mild symptoms are seen in most of the cases. Sometimes the patient only has anorexia i.e. he/she does not feel hungry. Sometimes the victim has a little pain in body which he ignores and at some stage of life while donating blood or during routine check- up, he finds that he is suffering from Hepatitis C and by that time the liver has been already damaged quite a lot.
Q. What kind of symptoms can this disease have?
Generally, if somebody is suffering from hepatitis, then the first symptom is seen in the form of jaundice. His bilirubin count rises, his transaminase enzymes i.e. SGPT, SGOT, alkaline phosphatase are found to be elevated. But if we talk about virus C, jaundice is seen in only 25 % of the patients. In the form of symptoms, you will only find mild and vague symptoms like anorexia i.e. decreased appetite, fatigue, weakness etc.. So these are some of the symptoms which are initially seen in case of Hepatitis C or virus C.
Q. But this too involves jaundice, right?
See, I would repeat it once more, jaundice is a general condition which can be because of any virus or any other toxic substance or any other injury to liver cells. Thus, without getting the serological markers tested, or without getting path lab tests done, it is very difficult to establish the cause of jaundice in a particular patient. Lab tests and tests of serological markers help us to find out that whether the jaundice in a particular case has occurred due to consumption of contaminated water or food or due to some other virus or due to Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C virus. When we get the patient’s blood sample tested, if the report shows presence of HBsAg, HBcAg or HBeAg then we say Hepatitis B virus is responsible. If the report suggests presence of hepatitis C RNA then we say that the jaundice is due to Virus C. So, we can’t differentiate between these diseases on the basis of the condition of liver or the symptoms of the diseases.
Q. The disease Hepatitis C is caused by Hepatitis C virus. But how is the virus transmitted or what is the source by which this virus enters a human body?
If you can recall, during the discussion on Hepatitis B, I had said that blood is the most important and effective mode of transmission of this virus . I had also said that hepatitis B virus can also be transmitted through saliva, breast milk, vaginal secretion, and semen. But the proven mode of transmission of virus C is through blood. It means that if blood from some infected person is used during blood transfusion or a common needle is used in both infected and a healthy person, or a common blade is shared then this can put a healthy person under the risk of contracting this disease. So in simple language, if the C virus is transmitted from infected person to a healthy person then mostly the medium of transmission, is blood.
Q. Sir, you told us about various sources through which Hepatitis C virus can enter our body. But how is the disease investigated? As you had told us about Hepatitis B, there are certain tests to investigate the disease so what are the special tests for Hepatitis C?
The simplest test is definitely the liver function test by which we can know about the liver enzymes. After that we do ultra sonography which we use to see the ecotexture of the liver. Then, like hepatitis B, we can do fibroscan, colour doppler etc.. So, such tests are carried out in case of hepatitis C, as well. On the basis of these tests, we can get an idea about not only the patient’s condition but also its prognosis. The C virus reaches liver cells and silently continues to replicate itself which gradually becomes a reason for destruction of liver. It develops into cirrhosis of liver wherein our liver loses its elasticity and turns into a fibrous mass. Generally, if somebody is carrying Hepatitis C virus in his body then almost 50% of such people will develop the condition of cirrhosis of liver in about 20 years and about 20% of such people will develop cancer i.e. hepatoma of liver. So this is how, it silently destroys the liver.
Q. This was about investigation but if we talk about normal day-to-day life then as much as I understand, a normal man would not be able to himself identify that he is suffering from hepatitis C. Please tell us about the common symptoms seen in this disease?
If you want then a simple lab investigation can help you to detect this disease in an early stage. During routine check-up, we should include tests for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, which we generally don’t do.
Q. Are you talking about tests like lipid profile?
Lipid profile is just a part of it, wherein we test cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL, VLDL and HDL. So, basically lipid profile is something very different from these tests. I am actually talking about serological markers like antigen test for Hepatitis C virus, RNA test etc.. Similarly, there are tests for Hepatitis B also. If you routinely get yourself tested for these, with a gap of 1-2 years, then early detection of this disease is possible and if detected early, you can go for timely treatment as well.
Q. Is immunity responsible for Hepatitis C as well, upto a great extent?
I would say that your immunity is going to help you to fight against any viral disease. When Hepatitis C happens to a person who has a weak immunity or if we consider age then in case of children and elderly people, the disease is observed to be more fatal. So if anybody has a strong immunity then there are no chances that the virus will reach the active replication stage. If the virus is present in your body i.e. the virus has entered your body through blood then you would have noticed that I said 50% of such people develop cirrhosis of liver or 20% of such people develop cancer of liver but why only 50%. This is because the rest 50% are following good diet and they have stronger immunity because of which they are able to fight the virus well and thus the virus is not able to replicate. Again, why only 20% of patients become victim of cancer? This is just because the remaining 80% of them have stronger immunity. It directly implies that if you have to fight the virus then you need to have a strong immunity.
Q. So, I think we should make an effort to boost our immunity. How can we do that with the help of Ayurveda? If we have to get rid of Hepatitis C, what can be done?
Those who are suffering from Hepatitis C, they know that they are given interferon therapy for this and that too in such a condition when the virus inside your body is replicating itself quite effectively. When your SGPT and SGOT are beyond 100, then the doctors advise you to take interferon therapy. About this therapy, I would like to tell you that it is a very strong medication during which you have to take 3 injections per week for 7 months and after that too, the response is seen only in 50% of the patients. As the studies suggest, out of these 50% patients, in 50% patients the disease reappears as soon as the interferon therapy is stopped i.e. it reappears even after getting disappeared. Thus, we can say that this type of therapy is not quite successful although I agree that at times it becomes mandatory to use it. When interferon therapy is given to a patient, he has to suffer many side effects too i.e. there will be hemolysis, he will become anemic, there will be bone marrow suppression, his digestive system will get drastically disturbed and so many more complications arise.
If there are no options in hand, obviously you have to proceed with the therapy but otherwise I suggest you to meet an Ayurvedic doctor near you. See, you just have to do three things. Firstly, you have to start taking proven antiviral herbal medicines. Secondly, you have to take medicines to strengthen your immunity.Thirdly, since here the target cells are liver cells so, you have to take the herbal medicines which are good for liver cells or which strengthen liver cells so that they can be prevented from being destroyed. If you adopt this approach and go ahead with the treatment then you will see that even if the virus is existent in your body still it will neither be able to actively replicate itself nor bring about any destruction to the liver cells. We can prove this through markers. We can get the quantitative tests done for the virus (we call it PCR test) which tell us about virus load. If you are taking the above mentioned Ayurvedic medicines, you can get these tests done from time to time and check the virus load in your body. You will see that either the virus load will remain stagnant or will reduce.
In general, we haven’t seen any case of Hepatitis C where the patient is taking our medicines and his virus load has increased. Similarly, there are tests like fibroscan, colour doppler tests which can determine the condition of liver. So there are methods by which we can prove this and give hope to our patients or encourage them that with the use of these medicines, he can avoid further deterioration and there are chances of even getting his body cleaned from virus.