– The act of telling other people that you have hepatitis C. Apart from informing the Blood Bank, individuals are not legally obliged to disclose their hepatitis C status. Disclosure to partners, family, friends, employers, insurers and health workers is a personal and potentially difficult decision.
HCV RNA (PCR) – directly detects viral sequences (HCV RNA) in serum. If positive, indicates present infection. This test can be qualitative in which case the result will be either positive or negative, or quantitative in which case the amount of virus is measured and usually reported in International Units (IU).
Haemochromatosis – A genetic disorder of iron regulation (metabolism) in the body. This results in excess iron being stored in the tissues. Iron accumulates over a long period of time, causing “iron overload”.
Haemophilia – A group of inherited bleeding disorders in which there is a deficiency in factor 8 or 9, necessary for coagulation of the blood. Haemophilia almost exclusively affects males.
Hepatitis – A general term, meaning inflammation of the liver.
Hepatocyte – A liver cell.
Hepatoma – Primary liver cancer, more correctly termed hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatotoxic – Any substance that causes harm to the liver.
HIV – The Human Immunodeficiency virus.
Household transmission – The term given to the transmission of a virus in a household setting. In the case of hepatitis C, household transmission is extremely rare.
Immune system – The body’s defence against any foreign substance. A major function of the immune system is to combat infections caused by micro-organisms, and it also acts to protect against the effects of drugs, toxins and cancer cells.
Interferon – A substance produced naturally by the body to help defend itself against viral infection. The administration of synthetically manufactured interferon alpha in large doses can help to reduce the amount of hepatitis C in the blood and slow down or stop the disease process.
Monotherapy – The use of one type of treatment. In the case of hepatitis C, this refers to the use of Interferon on its own. Monotherapy is now only used in patients who cannot tolerate Combination therapy.
Liver function tests – This refers to the measurement of a number of enzymes in the blood which, if elevated, infer liver inflammation. Despite the name, liver function tests do not measure true function of the live
NASH – Non alcoholic steatohepatitis – fat in the liver in association with inflammation with or without scarring.
Needlestick injury – Refers to an injury with a needle or other sharp implement.
Non-A, non-B hepatitis – Before hepatitis C was identified in 1989, this term was used to describe any hepatitis virus that was not caused by either hepatitis A or hepatitis B. It is now thought that the majority of cases of non-A, non-B hepatitis were hepatitis C.
Oesophageal varices – Varicose veins occurring at the lower end of the oesophagus (gullet). Can occur in conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver.
Pegylated interferon – slow release interferon, administered once a week. Pegylated interferon is emerging as the most effective treatment for hepatitis C, when used in combination with Ribavirin.
Platelets – Components of blood formed in red bone marrow, which congregate at eh site of an injury to form a clot. They are essential for coagulation or clotting.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – A laboratory technique that amplifies the genetic material of a virus to a level that can be detected. The presence or absence of the virus can then be determined. PCR is used to directly measure for the hepatitis C infection.
Primary biliary Cirrhosis – A slowly progressive disease of the bile ducts inside the liver. Inflammation of the bile ducts can eventually lead to scarring and this can sometimes cause blockage and a back flow of bile.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis – In this condition, the walls of the bile ducts become inflamed (cholangitis) and the inflammation causes scarring and hardening (sclerosis). This results in narrowing of the bile ducts.
Prognosis – A prediction of the probable outcome of a disease, based on the condition of the person and the usual course of the disease as observed in similar situations.
Prothrombin time – An indirect measure of the proteins produced by the liver which will help with blood clotting. This is an example of a true liver function test.
Quality of life – A measurement, usually subjective, of the complete state of physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease.
Ribavirin – A drug that alters the body’s immune response to viruses. Used in combination with Interferon in the treatment of hepatitis C. Ineffective when used alone. See Combination Therapy.
Subcutaneous injection – The introduction of a hypodermic needle, inserted at a 45% angle into the tissue beneath the skin. Interferon is administered in this way into the fat of the abdomen or the outer thigh.
Sustained virological response (SVR) – In reference to hepatitis C, this refers to the elimination of the virus following treatment. This results to an improvement in symptoms, and the reduction of potential long-term complications of the virus such as cirrhosis. If the HCV RNA is undetectable 6 months after the cessation of treatment, the patient is said to have achieved a sustained viral response. Neally all patients who do not have detectable virus 3 months after therapy achieve a sustained viral response.
Triple therapy - Use of interferon, ribavirin and a protease inhibitor (telaprevir or boceprevir)
Ultrasound examination – High frequency sound waves are transmitted through the skin and reflected by the internal organ, the pelvis, the heart and the major blood vessels. These “echoes” form a picture on a screen which can be examined for abnormalities.
Vaccine – A substance that stimulates and immune response and renders a person immune to a particular infection. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Viral load – The amount of virus circulating in the blood. In the case of hepatitis C, the viral load is usually measured by a PCR quantitative test. The result is given in the number of viral particles per ml of blood or international units per ml.