Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
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The hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person.
A woman with hepatitis can pass the virus on to her baby during birth. The hepatitis C virus is not spread through food or water.
Factors that increase your chance of this infection:
Most people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Over time, the disease can cause serious liver damage.
Symptoms may include:
Chronic hepatitis C may cause some of the above symptoms, as well as:
Serious complications of hepatitis C include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will also discuss your risk factors.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
Your liver function may be evaluated. This can be done with liver function studies.
Images may be needed of your liver. This can be done with an ultrasound.
Hepatitis C is usually treated with combined therapy, consisting of:
These medications can cause difficult side effects. They also have limited success rates.
You will be advised to stop drinking alcohol and smoking, which can further damage your liver, especially when undergoing treatment. If you have problems stopping alcohol, your doctor can refer you to counseling or a treatment program. There are several ways to successfully quit smoking .
In unsuccessful cases, chronic hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis and serious liver damage. A liver transplant may be needed, although it does not typically cure hepatitis C.
To prevent becoming infected with hepatitis C:
To prevent spreading hepatitis C to others if you are infected:
Last reviewed August 2014 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.