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.

You may need surgery if you have hepatitis C for many years. Over time,
hepatitis C can cause your liver to stop working. If that happens, you will need
a new liver. The surgery is called a liver transplant. It involves taking out
the old, damaged liver and putting in a new, healthy one from a donor.

How can I protect myself?

You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis C.

Man taking a syringe out of a bag.
If you inject drugs, use your own
needles.
  • Don’t share drug needles with anyone.
  • Wear gloves if you have to touch anyone’s blood.
  • If you have several sex partners, use a condom during sex.
  • Don’t use an infected person’s toothbrush, razor, or anything else that
    could have blood on it.
  • If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure it is done with clean tools.
  • If you have hepatitis C, don’t give your blood or plasma. The person who
    receives it could become infected with the virus.

For More Information

You can also get information about hepatitis C from these groups:

American Liver Foundation (ALF)
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 603
New
York, NY 10038–4810
Phone: 1–800–GO–LIVER (465–4837),
1–888–4HEP–USA
(443–7872),
or 212–668–1000
Fax: 212–483–8179
Email: [email protected]
Internet:
www.liverfoundation.org

Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI)
504 Blick Drive
Silver
Spring, MD 20904–2901
Phone: 1–800–891–0707 or 301–622–4200
Fax:
301–622–4702
Email: [email protected]
Internet: www.hepfi.org

Image of the Hepatitis A and B booklets.

Acknowledgments

The individuals listed here provided editorial guidance or facilit

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