Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that affects the liver through contaminated blood.  It can lead to permanent liver damage if not treated or gone undetected for a significant length of time. In some occasions, Hepatitis C can affect other organs besides the liver. Hepatitis C has been linked with resistance to insulin as well as kidney failure.  Most healthcare professionals treating Hepatitis C patients will be referred to additional testing in order to have their overall health monitored. Sometimes the virus will disappear completely on its’ own.

If the infection does not disappear after six months, the condition is considered to be chronic.

What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

One of the major problems in treating Hepatitis C is that a majority of people will not show any symptoms at all. It can take many years for symptoms to even start showing.

Symptoms include

Flu-like complaints such as nausea and decreased appetite, feelings of fatigue and lethargy, skin rashes, jaundice (yellowing skin and on the whites of the eyes), dark urine and clay-colored stools. These symptoms will often alleviate themselves over time. Those suffering from chronic Hepatitis C may see other symptoms such as swelling in the abdominal area and tender pain in the lower right side of the abdomen.

Testing for Hepatitis C is recommended for anyone who might fall under these categories:

  • If you were born between 1945 and 1975
  • You were possibly in contact with someone else’s blood
  • If you resided in a country where Hepatitis C is very common

Hepatitis C Causes

The only way to contract hepatitis C is to come into contact with another person who is carrying the virus HCV (hepatitis C virus). It cannot be contracted through interactions with animals or insects, only humans. There is no contagion period; the virus lives in someone for their entire life. The virus is present mostly in the blood of someone carrying the virus, although it can be present in other bodily fluids. Most of the time, the virus is contracted through the sharing of needles with someone who has the virus.

Before 1990, the virus was often passed through blood transfusions, due to inferior technology (it could not be determined whether someone had the virus or not). However, technology is now able to screen blood for hepatitis C.

Less common ways of catching the virus include healthcare settings where a certain sanitation protocol isn’t followed. For example, if the same needle is used for more than one patient. Organ transplantation is another uncommon way to catch HCV. Transmission through sexual intercourse is uncommon but also possible. Additionally, if a tattoo or piercing parlor uses unsanitary protocol – sharing a needle – HCV can occur.

How is Hepatitis C Treated?

A doctor treating someone diagnosed with Acute Hepatitis C may wait a short period of time to see if the virus clears on its’ own without medical intervention.

Treatment includes

Chronic Hepatitis C patients used to require regular injections and doses of medication taken orally. Those medications were often difficult for patients to take because of the painful and bothersome side effects resulting from treatment. Chronic Hepatitis C is now being treated with regular doses of oral medications taken daily for between six months to a year. Early detection and treatment may help minimize damage to the liver. If you think you are experiencing any symptoms of Hepatitis C, speak to your healthcare provider.

Hepatitis C Prevention

Fortunately, hepatitis C is preventable. Avoid close or intimate contact with someone carrying the hepatitis virus. Similarly, do not share needles with people. Unprotected sex with multiple partners can also increase one’s risk of acquiring the virus.

Getting tattoos or body piercings at parlors which are not reputable and do not follow a strict sanitation protocol can place someone at greater risk for developing hepatitis C. Note: casual contact with someone who has the virus should not cause you worry. Kissing someone with hepatitis C or drinking out of the same glass as them will also not give you hepatitis C. Just avoid anything that may carry the blood of an individual with hepatitis C, such as a razor blade or nail clippers.

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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 11, 2018
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