Hepatitis C is a disease that harms the liver. The liver is a big organ in the upper right side of the belly. A virus causes this disease. The virus is called the hepatitis C virus. It spreads from person to person through contact with blood. This can happen in a few ways, including sharing drug needles.
Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include:
In most cases, hepatitis C lasts for many years. That can lead to liver scarring, called "cirrhosis." Many people with cirrhosis have no symptoms.
You can catch the hepatitis C virus if you have contact with the blood of someone who is infected. This can happen if you:
You can catch the hepatitis C virus if you have sex with someone who is infected. But this does not happen very often.
A pregnant woman who is infected can also give hepatitis C to her baby.
Some people who have hepatitis C do not remember how they were infected. In the United States, many people with hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965. If you were born during these years, your doctor might want to test you for hepatitis C even if you did not do any of the things that put you at risk of infection.
Yes. Your doctor might order a few tests:
If you have hepatitis C, your doctor will also want to know if you have any liver scarring. Ways to check for scarring include:
Treatment depends on what type of hepatitis C you have. There are different medicines to treat hepatitis C. Some of them only work on certain forms of the hepatitis C virus. You will have to take a combination of 2 or more medicines based on which virus you have. Treatment usually lasts 3 months. The medicines come in pill form.
Your doctor can help you decide which medicines are right for you.
Yes, you can:
If you want to get pregnant, talk to your doctor or nurse first. About 1 in 20 women who have hepatitis C pass the virus on to the baby during pregnancy. That number goes up in women who are also infected with HIV.
Many people with hepatitis C are able to live normal lives. Treatment can cure the disease in almost all cases.
If you have hepatitis C, it is still safe to: