1. Health

Hepatitis C

Information about Hepatitis C

By

Updated July 01, 2009

Hepatitis C is a major public health problem. Over three million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C in the United States, and about 170 million people are infected worldwide. It's a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus and targets the liver, which leads to potentially damaging inflammation. If the virus is not cleared from the liver, fibrosis may occur. For some, this could mean serious complications.

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Acute hepatitis C often does not cause symptoms, but it can cause loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, muscle and joint aches, and other flu-like symptoms. Different signs and symptoms sometimes develop as the infection progresses. People without symptoms may never be diagnosed, although routine blood testing can sometimes indicate a problem that prompts further investigation.

Hepatitis C Transmission

Hepatitis C spreads when people come into direct contact with hepatitis C virus-infected blood. Because of this, certain activities are considered high risk. Some of these activities are sharing and reusing needles, as well as accompanying equipment, and sharing personal items that come into contact with blood, such as razors and toothbrushes.

Hepatitis C Diagnosis

A simple blood test that checks for an antibody to hepatitis C can be used, although diagnosing an active (and treatable) infection is more complex. A doctor may suspect hepatitis infection after taking a medical history and performing a medical examination, but only testing can confirm it.

Hepatitis C Complications

Most people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus will develop a chronic infection that continues to damage the liver. Over time, many of these people will develop a serious complication of chronic hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver. Other potential complications include liver cancer and liver failure.

Hepatitis C Treatment

The goal of hepatitis treatment is to prevent or slow down complications of chronic hepatitis C. The standard treatment for chronic hepatitis C is a combination of two drugs, peginterferon and ribavirin. This treatment is very effective for people with hepatitis C genotypes 2 and 3. For people with genotype 1 (the most common genotype in the United States), treatment is usually less effective.

Hepatitis C Prevention

As stated, people are at risk of developing hepatitis C when they come into direct contact with blood infected with the hepatitis C virus. Unlike many of the other hepatitis viruses, there is no vaccine that can protect you from hepatitis C. There are, however, simple but effective strategies that provide protection from hepatitis C virus exposure.

Sources:

Berenguer M, Wright, TL. Hepatitis C. In: M Feldman, LS Friedman, LJ Brandt (eds), Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 8e. Philadelphia, Elsevier, 2006. 1681-1712.

Dienstag, JL. Acute Viral Hepatitis. In: AS Fauci, E Braunwald, DL Kasper, SL Hauser, DL Longo, JL Jameson, J Loscaizo (eds), Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 17e. New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com.

Dienstag, JL. Chronic Hepatitis. In: AS Fauci, E Braunwald, DL Kasper, SL Hauser, DL Longo, JL Jameson, J Loscaizo (eds), Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 17e. New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Hepatitis
  4. Hepatitis Types
  5. Hepatitis C
  6. Hepatitis C - Information About Hepatitis C

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.