Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and can lead to serious liver damage. Unlike hepatitis A, which is usually a short-term infection that the body can clear on its own, hepatitis C is more likely to become chronic if not treated. Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Causes of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is transmitted when the blood of an infected person enters the body of someone who isn’t infected.
You are at risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- Share needles for intravenous drug use
- Are a healthcare worker who has been exposed to infected blood
- Are HIV positive
- Received a tattoo or piercing using unsterile equipment
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C H
- ad unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis C
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Acute hepatitis C usually remains undiagnosed because it rarely causes noticeable symptoms. In chronic hepatitis C cases, symptoms often don’t appear until the infection has damaged the liver. Then, symptoms can include:
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Dark-colored urine
- Leg swelling
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen
- Weight loss
Diagnosing Hepatitis C
Experts recommend that all adults ages 18 to 79 be screened for hepatitis C through a blood test. If initial testing indicates the presence of hepatitis C, an additional blood test may be needed to determine the viral load. Your doctor may also request one of the following tests to assess the extent of your liver damage:
- A magnetic resonance elastography
- A transient elastography
- A liver biopsy
Treatments for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C treatment is designed to eliminate the virus from the blood to protect the liver from damage. Significant advancements have been made in treating the virus through antiviral medications, though the medications your doctor chooses will depend on the genotype of your hepatitis C (strain of the virus) and the extent of your liver damage. For patients who have suffered extensive liver damage, a liver transplant may be an option.
At Tampa General Hospital, our liver disease, hepatology and transplant experts are committed to helping patients cope with the life-altering effects of hepatitis C. In fact, we have some of the shortest wait times for transplantation in the country and our survival rates are consistently at or above national averages.