What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is a type of viral hepatitis. The virus is spread through exposure to the blood of an infected person. There is no vaccination against Hepatitis C.
There are two forms of hepatitis C:
- Acute hepatitis C – This stays in your system for less than six months. This usually affects 20-30% of people who have Hepatitis C.
- Chronic hepatitis C – This stays in your system for longer than six months and affects 70-80% of people who have Hepatitis C. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can last a lifetime and cause cirrhosis, which is severe liver scarring, liver cancer or death.
Most people with hepatitis C don't know they have the virus because they never develop symptoms. Even people with chronic hepatitis C may not have symptoms until they have severe liver damage.
If you do have symptoms of hepatitis C, they might include:
- Fatigue – Extreme mental and physical tiredness that doesn't improve with rest
- Fever – An abnormally high body temperature
- Loss of appetite – Little to no desire to eat
- Jaundice – Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Dark urine – Urine that is darker than normal, usually dark yellow or brown
- Nausea – A feeling of sickness in your stomach that may lead to vomiting
- Abdominal pain – Discomfort in the stomach
- Joint pain – Discomfort and inflammation in the joints, often in the hands, knees, ankles and feet
- Rash – Discoloration of skin, usually in the legs that comes and goes
Currently, doctors only recommend treatment for chronic hepatitis C. Treatment includes:
- Vaccination – You should receive the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines to avoid further liver damage from these viruses.
- Lifestyle changes – You and your doctor should also discuss what you can do to prevent spread of the virus. It’s important to stop ongoing liver damage. Excessive alcohol intake, drug use and obesity may worsen your liver health. Discuss any medicines, vitamins and supplements with your doctor before and during Hepatitis C treatment. Also, it is possible to become re-infected with Hepatitis C. Please discuss with your healthcare team how to avoid becoming re-infected.
- Monitoring – Your doctor will evaluate your liver health through: history and physical exam and laboratory testing, liver ultrasound and/or elastrography, and/or liver biopsy.
- Medicine – Your doctor will prescribe antiviral medications to help your body fight the virus. These can cure chronic hepatitis C in most cases. Currently, Hepatitis C treatment is not recommended for women who are pregnant. Many people, who were not candidates for Hepatitis C treatment in the past, may be eligible for treatment now. Hepatitis C treatment lasts 8-12 weeks and has minimal side effects, in most cases.
Ready for an Appointment?
If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of Hepatitis C, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.
Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat Hepatitis C.