Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver, causing inflammation and, in severe cases, liver damage. It is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and can range from a mild, short-term illness to a chronic, lifelong condition. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious liver problems, such as cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.


Who's at risk for Hepatitis C?

Certain groups of people are at a higher risk for hepatitis C, including those who have injected drugs, received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, have been exposed to infected blood, or were born to mothers with hepatitis C. Additionally, healthcare workers who have had needlestick injuries and individuals who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors are also at an increased risk.


What causes Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is transmitted through contact with infected blood. The virus can be spread through sharing needles or other drug injection equipment, contaminated blood transfusions or organ transplants, accidental needlestick injuries, or from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.


How does Hepatitis C start?

Hepatitis C starts when the virus enters the body, usually through contact with infected blood. The virus then infects the liver cells, causing inflammation and damage to the liver tissue over time.


What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?

Many people with hepatitis C do not experience any symptoms, particularly in the early stages of the infection. However, some individuals may experience symptoms such as fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).


How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?

Hepatitis C is diagnosed through blood tests that detect the presence of the virus or antibodies produced by the immune system in response to the infection. Additional tests, such as liver function tests and imaging studies, may be performed to assess the extent of liver damage.


How can Hepatitis C be treated?

Treatment for hepatitis C typically involves antiviral medications that help to clear the virus from the body and prevent further liver damage. In recent years, highly effective direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medications have become available, offering cure rates of over 90% for most patients. In some cases, individuals with advanced liver disease may require a liver transplant.


What complications may occur with Hepatitis C?

If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious liver complications, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer. In some cases, the virus can also cause extrahepatic manifestations, affecting other organs and systems in the body.


How can I prevent Hepatitis C?

Preventing hepatitis C involves avoiding exposure to infected blood. Key prevention strategies include not sharing needles or other drug injection equipment, practicing safe sex, and ensuring that any tattoos or piercings are performed using sterile equipment. There is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C.


Long-term management of Hepatitis C

Long-term management of hepatitis C involves regular monitoring by your healthcare team, adherence to antiviral treatment regimens, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to support liver health. This includes avoiding alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and being cautious with medications that may cause liver damage.


What is recent research saying about Hepatitis C?

Recent research on hepatitis C has focused on developing more effective treatments, improving diagnostic tools, and understanding the long-term effects of the infection on the body. Studies have also explored the potential for developing a vaccine to prevent hepatitis C and investigated strategies for reducing the spread of the virus in high-risk populations.


Where can I go for more information on Hepatitis C?

For more information on hepatitis C, consult your healthcare provider or visit reputable health organizations' websites, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or the American Liver Foundation (ALF). These organizations provide comprehensive information on hepatitis C, including prevention, treatment, management strategies, and ongoing research.