Hepatitis C

    A microscopic image of the hep c virusHepatitis C is a liver disease.

    Hepatitis (HEP-ah-TY-tis) makes your liver swell and stops it from working
    right.

    You need a healthy liver. The liver does many things to keep you alive. The
    liver fights infections and stops bleeding. It removes drugs and other poisons
    from your blood. The liver also stores energy for when you need it.

    What causes hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis C is caused by a virus.

    A virus is a germ that causes sickness. (For example, the flu is caused by a
    virus.) People can pass viruses to each other. The virus that causes hepatitis C
    is called the hepatitis C virus.

    How could I get hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis C is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood. You

    could get hepatitis C by

    • getting pricked with a needle that has infected blood on it (hospitalsharing drug needles
    • workers can get hepatitis C this way)
    • having sex with an infected person, especially if you or your partner has
      other sexually transmitted diseases
    • being born to a mother with hepatitis C

    In rare cases, you could get hepatitis C by

    • getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterilized, dirty
      tools

    You can NOT get hepatitis C by

    • shaking hands with an infected person
    • hugging an infected person
    • kissing an infected person
    • sitting next to an infected person

    Could I get hepatitis C from a blood transfusion?

    If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, you might
    have hepatitis C.

    Before 1992, doctors could not check blood for hepatitis C, and some people
    received infected blood. If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant
    before 1992, ask a doctor to test you for hepatitis C. (See “What are the tests
    for hepatitis C?”)

    Illustration of a Doctor talking to a patient.
    A doctor can test you for hepatitis
    C.

    What are the symptoms?

    Many people with hepatitis C don’t have
    symptoms.

    However, some people with hepatitis C feel like they have the flu.

    Illustration of a man in bed.

    So, you might

    • feel tired
    • feel sick to your stomach
    • have a fever
    • not want to eat
    • have stomach pain
    • have diarrhea

    Some people have

    • dark yellow urine
    • light-colored stools
    • yellowish eyes and skin

    If you have symptoms or think you might have hepatitis C, go to a doctor.

    What are the tests for hepatitis C?

    Doctor taking a blood sample from a woman's arm.
    The doctor will take some blood to check for hepatitis
    C.

    To check for hepatitis C, the doctor will test your blood.

    These tests show if you have hepatitis C and how serious it is.

    The doctor may also do a liver biopsy.

    A biopsy (BYE-op-see) is a simple test. The doctor removes a tiny piece of
    your liver through a needle. The doctor checks the piece of liver for signs of
    hepatitis C and liver damage.

    How is hepatitis C treated?

    Health care provider, wearing gloves, drawing medicine into a syringe.
    Hepatitis C is treated through shots of
    medicine.

    Hepatitis C is treated with a drug called peginterferon, usually in
    combination with the drug ribavirin.

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