Hepatitis C Treatment & Advice
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver.
If you think you might have Hepatitis C, PLEASE DON'T PANIC
It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”
Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.
Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.
How do people get Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
People can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus during such activities as:
Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs.
Needlestick injuries in health care settings.
Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C.
Less commonly, a person can also get Hepatitis C virus infection through:
Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes Having sexual contact with a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus
Can Hepatitis C be spread through sexual contact?
Yes, but the risk of transmission from sexual contact is believed to be low. The risk increases for those who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, engage in rough sex, or are infected with HIV. More research is needed to better understand how and when Hepatitis C can be spread through sexual contact.
Can you get Hepatitis C by getting a tattoo or piercing?
A few major research studies have not shown Hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. However, transmission of Hepatitis C (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Body art is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and unregulated tattooing and piercing are known to occur in prisons and other informal or unregulated settings. Further research is needed to determine if these types of settings and exposures are responsible for Hepatitis C virus transmission.
Can Hepatitis C be spread within a household?
Yes, but this does not occur very often. If Hepatitis C virus is spread within a household, it is most likely a result of direct, through-the-skin exposure to the blood of an infected household member. What are ways Hepatitis C is not spread? Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water.
Who is at risk for Hepatitis C?
Some people are at increased risk for Hepatitis C, including
Current injection drug users (currently the most common way Hepatitis C virus is spread in the United States)
Past injection drug users, including those who injected only one time or many years ago
Recipients of donated blood, blood products, and organs (once a common means of transmission but now rare in the United States since blood screening became available in 1992)
People who received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987
Hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure
People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments
People with known exposures to the Hepatitis C virus, such as Health care workers injured by needlesticks
Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the Hepatitis C virus
Children born to mothers infected with the Hepatitis C virus
Less common risks include:
Having sexual contact with a person who is infected with the Hepatitis C virus
Sharing personal care items, such as razors or toothbrushes, that may have come in contact with the blood of an infected person
What is the risk of a pregnant woman passing Hepatitis C to her baby?
Hepatitis C is rarely passed from a pregnant woman to her baby. About 4 of every 100 infants born to mothers with Hepatitis C become infected with the virus. However, the risk becomes greater if the mother has both HIV infection and Hepatitis C.
Can a person get Hepatitis C from a mosquito or other insect bite?
Hepatitis C virus has not been shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes or other insects.
Can I donate blood, organs, or semen if I have Hepatitis C?
No, if you ever tested positive for the Hepatitis C virus (or Hepatitis B virus), experts recommend never donating blood, organs, or semen because this can spread the infection to the recipient.
What are the signs or symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Acute Hepatitis C Symptoms?
Approximately 70%–80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. Some people, however, can have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected, including Fever Fatigue, Loss of appetite, Nausea Vomiting, Abdominal pain, Dark urine Clay-colored bowel movements, Joint pain, Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)
Chronic symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed. In persons without symptoms, Hepatitis C is often detected during routine blood tests to measure liver function and liver enzyme (protein produced by the liver) level.
How serious is chronic Hepatitis C?
Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Approximately 8,000–10,000 people die every year from Hepatitis C related liver disease.
How soon after exposure to Hepatitis C will symptoms appear?
If symptoms occur, the average time is 6–7 weeks after exposure, but this can range from 2 weeks to 6 months. However, many people infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not develop symptoms
Can a person spread Hepatitis C without having symptoms?
Yes. Many people with Hepatitis C have no symptoms, but these people can still spread the virus.
How will I know if I have Hepatitis C?
Talk to your health professional. Since many people with Hepatitis C do not have symptoms, doctors diagnose the disease by one or more blood tests. These tests look for the presence of antibodies or antigens and can help determine whether you: have acute or chronic infection.
How is Hepatitis C Diagnosed?
Several different blood tests are used to test for Hepatitis C. A doctor may order just one or a combination of these tests. Typically, a person will first get a screening test that will show whether he or she has developed antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus. (An antibody is a substance found in the blood that the body produces in response to a virus.) Having a positive antibody test means that a person was exposed to the virus at some time in his or her life. If the antibody test is positive, a doctor will most likely order a second test to confirm whether the virus is still present in the person's bloodstream.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis C?
How is acute Hepatitis C treated?
There is no medication available to treat acute Hepatitis C infection. Doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids.
How is chronic Hepatitis C treated?
Each person should discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating hepatitis. This can include some internists, family practitioners, infectious disease doctors, or hepatologists (liver specialists). People with chronic Hepatitis C should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease and evaluated for treatment. The treatment most often used for Hepatitis C is a combination of two medicines, interferon and ribavirin.
However, not every person with chronic Hepatitis C needs or will benefit from treatment. In addition, the drugs may cause serious side effects in some patients. New Hepatitis C Vaccine
Is it possible to get over Hepatitis C?
Yes, approximately 15%–25% of people who get Hepatitis C will clear the virus from their bodies without treatment and will not develop chronic infection. Experts do not fully understand why this happens for some people.
What can people with chronic Hepatitis C do to take care of their liver?
People with chronic Hepatitis C should be monitored regularly by an experienced doctor. They should avoid alcohol because it can cause additional liver damage. They also should check with a health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, as these can potentially damage the liver. If liver damage is present, a person should check with his or her doctor about getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Can Hepatitis C be Prevented?
Unlike hepatitis A and B there is no vaccine currently. Research into the development of a vaccine is under way. In most situations, common sense should preval. The information on these pages are only offered as a guide, and can't cover every situation when dealing with hepatitis C. Always follow your health advisors advice.