About Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to swelling (inflammation) of the liver.
Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
You can catch hepatitis C if the blood of someone who has hepatitis C enters your body.
Exposure may occur: After a needle stick or sharp injury, if blood from someone who has hepatitis C contacts a cut on your skin or contacts your eyes or mouth, inject street drugs or share a needle with someone who has hepatitis C, have regular contact with blood at work (such as a health care worker), have unprotected sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis C, were born to a mother who had hepatitis C, received a tattoo or acupuncture with needles that were not disinfected properly after being used on another person (risk is very low with practitioners who have a tattoo license or permit or an acupuncture license), received an organ transplant from a donor who has hepatitis C, share personal items, such as toothbrushes and razors, with someone who has hepatitis C (less common), received a blood transfusion
Most people who are recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Some people have yellowing of the skin (jaundice) that goes away. Chronic infection often causes no symptoms. But tiredness, skin disorders and other problems can occur. Persons who have long-term (chronic) infection often have no symptoms until their liver becomes scarred (cirrhosis). Most people with this condition are ill and have many health problems.
The following symptoms may occur with hepatitis C infection: Pain in the right upper abdomen, abdominal swelling due to fluid (ascites), clay-colored or pale stools, dark urine, fatigue, fever, itching, and jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Diagnostic and treatment
If tested positive or if you believe that you may have been at risk, please contact you health care provider as soon as possible in order to have the necessary tests done and to review your treatment options.
If you have hepatitis C:
- Do not take over-the-counter medicines that you have not taken before without asking your health care provider. Also ask about vitamins and other supplements.
- Do not use alcohol or street drugs. Alcohol can speed up the damage to your liver. It can also reduce how well medicines work.
- Ask your health care provider whether you need the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.
- Contact your health care provider if you develop symptoms of hepatitis or you believe you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus.
Things that can be done to prevent the spread of hepatitis C from one person to another include:
- Health care workers should follow precautions when handling blood. Do not share needles with anyone.
- Do not get tattoos or body piercings or receive acupuncture from someone who does not have a permit or license.
- Do not share personal items such as razors and toothbrushes.
- Practice safe sex.