Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver. Over three million people in the United States have it, though many of them don’t know it because the disease does not have many symptoms.
Hepatitis C has several different forms, the most common of which is type 1. All forms of hepatitis C are equally serious, but each responds differently to treatment.
What are the symptoms?
Most people who have hepatitis C don’t show symptoms. But some symptoms you might notice if you have hepatitis C include a yellow coloring under the eyes and skin called jaundice. Dark urine, stomach pain, nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite are other signs.
How is hep C spread?
Hepatitis is spread through bodily fluids, such as blood and semen. You can catch it from the following activities:
- Sharing needles and/or drugs
- Having sex, especially if you have more than one partner, an STD, or are infected with HIV
- Being stuck with a infected needle
- During birth, mothers can pass hep C to their children.
Hepatitis C cannot be spread through water, food, or germs.
Who gets hep C?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting tested for hepatitis C if you:
- Have received blood from an infected donor
- Have injected drugs at any time in your life
- Have had an organ transplant or blood transfusion prior to July 1992
- Have received a blood product used to treat clots before the year 1987
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Have been on kidney dialysis for a substantial amount of time
- Are HIV positive
- Were born to a mother who has hepatitis C
How is hep C diagnosed?
Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Hepatitis C is usually diagnosed with a blood test. If your doctor suspects that you have hepatitis C, you will be required to take a blood test.
Does it cause complications?
Hepatitis C causes complications in between 75 and 85% of people who get it. These people develop a condition known as chronic hepatitis C, which can lead to other potentially dangerous health conditions, such as cirrhosis, liver scarring, and liver cancer. These complications are one of the most common reasons why people get liver transplants.
How is hep C treated?
Treatments for hepatitis C have improved in recent years, thanks to research. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new medication-based treatment which consists of a combination of three different prescription drugs. This drug has been shown to cure hepatitis C in all patients who take it. It is based another drug which cures the disease within 8-12 weeks in the majority of people. The side effects of both drugs include weakness, fatigue, and headaches.
Other recent drugs may provide a cure in less time. Your doctor will assess your case and make a recommendation according to your situation and any other medication you may be on. Treatment also depends on the type of hepatitis C you have. Genotypes 1, 2, and 3 are the most common in the United States.