Hepatitis C (HCV)

Hepatitis C is often called a silent killer, because most people do not exhibit symptoms until severe damage is done. Long-standing hepatitis C infection can lead to liver damage, sometimes even necessitating liver transplant. Therapy has drastically changed in recent years, and now there are oral medications available with a good side effect profile to prevent liver damage and other complications before they occur.

Signs and Symptoms

As stated above, Hepatitis C symptoms may not appear until damage to the liver has already been done. However, if you notice the combination of the following symptoms, you should check with your physician:

  • Jaundice (a condition that causes yellow eyes and skin, as well as dark urine)
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Hepatitis C is transmitted through the blood, or bodily fluids. It is not spread through food, water, or casual contact. It can be spread in the following ways:

  • Sharing drugs and needles
  • Having sex, especially if you have an STD, an HIV infection, several partners, or have rough sex
  • Being stuck by infected needles
  • Birth-a mother can pass it to a child

We recommend you get tested for the disease if you:

  • Received blood from a donor who had the disease.
  • Have ever injected drugs.
  • Had a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992.
  • Received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987.
  • Were born between 1945 and 1965.
  • Have been on long-term kidney dialysis.
  • Have HIV.
  • Were born to a mother with hepatitis C

Diagnosis & Treatment

A simple blood test can determine whether or not you have hepatitis C. Treatment options have improved greatly in recent years. If caught early, the disease can be cured through a combination of medication, and the side effects of these medications are much less severe than those of previously available medications.

About 75 percent to 85 percent of people who have hepatitis C develop a long-term infection called chronic hepatitis C. It can lead to conditions like liver cancer and cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and is one of the top reasons people get liver transplants.