"Hepatitis" means inflamation of the liver. Hepatitis C is the most common form of viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in serveity from a mild illness lasting only a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread through blood to blood contact, and can be acute or chronic.
Hepatitis C is spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected.
Common ways the virus is spread include:
- Sharing needles or syringes for IV drug use
- Being born to a mother infected with Hepatitis C
- Needlestick injuries in health care settings
Less common ways the virus is spread include:
- Sharing personal items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood like razors
- Having sexual contact with a person who is infected
- Tattoo or piercing parlors that have poor infection control policies.
70%-80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms
Some people however, have symptoms soon after being infected, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay- colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
Talk to your doctor about getting tested for Hepatitis C if any of the following are true:
- You were born from 1945 through 1965
- You are a current or former injection drug user, even if you only used one time or many years ago
- You were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987
- You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- You are on long-term hemodialysis treatment
- You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needlestick or other sharp object injury
- You are infected with HIV
Acute hepatitis C can be treated, and in about 25% of people it will clear on its own without any treatment. The treatment drugs for acute hepatitis are the same as the ones that are used for chronic hepatitis.
Chronic hepatitis has several medicines that are used to treat the infection, and there are more options than ever before.