Patient Info

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by hepatitis C virus. The virus causes swelling and inflammation of the liver. You can contract hepatitis C if you come in contact with blood of an infected person. Viral transmission can occur by any of the following ways:

  • Unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Acupuncture or getting a tattoo with an unclean needle
  • Sharing drug needles
  • From mother to baby

Hepatitis C symptoms do not show in its early stages. When symptoms do occur they include abdominal pain and swelling, fever, tiredness, itchy skin, dark colored urine, appetite loss, jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin), vomiting and nausea. Sometimes, chronic hepatitis C does not show any symptoms until cirrhosis (scarring) forms in the liver.

Your doctor diagnoses hepatitis C with the help of blood tests. To detect the type of hepatitis C, your doctor may perform genetic testing. Liver damage may be determined with albumin level, liver function tests, prothrombin time and liver biopsy.

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate antiviral medication. You are advised to avoid alcohol and over-the-counter medication that can hasten liver damage. A liver transplant may be recommended for liver cancer and cirrhosis.

HCV cannot be spread by casual contact, such as touching, kissing, coughing or sneezing, breastfeeding, or sharing utensils. There is no vaccine currently for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C can be easily avoided by not sharing needles or syringes with others and not having unprotected sex with an infected person.