Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C means inflammation (swelling) of the liver. There are various causes - infections, alcohol, some types of medication, toxins and poisons. This page gives information on viral Hepatitis C (Hepatitis caused by a viral infection).
Initial infection can cause mild fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Hepatitis C symptoms can take some weeks to appear. You can have Hepatitis C for many years without any obvious symptoms that might make you or your GP think you have it. During this time you can still pass on the infection to others and your liver can be being damaged further. If you think you might have Hepatitis C get tested.
There are several different types of virus that cause Hepatitis C. Some are more easily caught than others and most of them can be passed on through unprotected sex. Viral Hepatitis C is caused by a group of viruses (A, B, C, D & E). The viruses differ in how common they are, how they are spread and how they are treated.
Hepatitis C testing is simple and requires giving a sample of blood. To test for viral Hepatitis C a blood test is carried out to look for any antibodies to the virus which have been produced in response to an infection. If these are present then you have been in contact with the virus/infected at some time. Blood tests will ensure that the liver is returning to normal. Alcohol and some types of medication should be avoided during this recovery period.
Treatment for Hepatitis C does not cure Hepatitis C but works to delay or even to prevent complications from developing, like liver damage and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). People with chronic Hepatitis C usually need treatment to stop or to reduce the activity of the virus, so limiting liver damage. Treatment for chronic Hepatitis C depends on how badly your liver is affected. It can be treated using medications designed to slow the spread of the virus and prevent damage to the liver.
To prevent the spread of Hepatitis C, avoid exposure to infectious blood or body fluids. Do not have intimate contact without protection or share razors, scissors, nail files, toothbrushes, or needles with anyone who has the disease. If you suspect that you have been exposed to Hepatitis C, you should receive immune serum globulin and vaccinations for the viruses as soon as possible.

Last updated March 10, 2016