What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. The liver is located under your ribs on the right side of your abdomen, about the size of a football. The liver makes key proteins (clotting factors for blood), recycles important substances (hemoglobin), and removes poisons from your body. When the liver is inflamed, these jobs are compromised.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
The most common symptom of Hepatitis C is fatigue, although some people may experience muscle and joint aches, fever, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, or stomach pains. Many people live with Hepatitis C years before they have any symptoms.
How common is Hepatitis C?
An estimated 2.7 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they don't look or feel sick.
Can Hepatitis C be cured?
Yes, Hepatitis C can be cured. Current treatments offer a 60 - 95% chance of cure depending on the type of Hepatitis C and extent of disease.
How do you get Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is contracted through blood to blood contact. Most common transmission is through sharing of needles. Other causes of transmission include transfusions, bloody sex, and other different risk factors (needlestick injury). 10% of cases have unknown causes.
How do you prevent transmission of Hepatitis C?
If you bleed, clean it up and cover your wounds. Don't share razors or toothbrushes. Don't ever share needles, syringes, cottons, cookers, rinsewater, or cocaine straws. Use condoms if you have more than one sexual partner or aren't in a stable relationship. If you are in a long-term monogamous relationship, your chances of passing it on are very low. You do not have to worry about hugging, kissing, casual contact, cups, plates, or eating and cooking utensils.
Is there a treatment for Hepatitis C?
There are many different treatments available for Hepatitis C, most of them are pill only regimens and treatment lasts from 2-6 months depending on the type of virus and extent of disease.
What is the treatment like?
Most treatments have minimal if any side effects. The most common complaints are headache, fatigue and lab abnormalities.
Does everyone with Hepatitis C need treatment?
Not everyone needs or is a candidate for treatment, the decision whether to start treatment should be made by you and your health care provider.
What lab tests are used to help with diagnosis, treatment, and evaluation of treatment for Hepatitis C?
The Viral Load (PCR) detects the amount of virus in the blood and also lets us know whether the virus is gone. This level also determines how patients are responding to treatment.
A Hepatitis Genotype identifies different strains of the Hepatitis C Virus. There are a total of 6 genotypes, with the most common in the US being types 1,2,3. This determines how well one will respond to treatment and how long therapy will last. All genotypes cause the same amount of liver damage.
A Hepatitis C Antibody determines if you have been exposed to the Hepatitis C Virus. You may have a positive antibody, but have no virus in your blood. Some people can clear the virus on their on.
How do you tell if your liver is being damaged?
Lab tests give you a general picture of how healthy your liver is. The best way to tell if there is any damage in your liver is to have a liver biopsy, which is a sampling of your liver tissue and looking at it under a microscope. The doctor will examine the tissue to see if there is any inflammation or scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver.