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Am I at Risk for Hepatitis C?

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  • Hepatitis: What Is It?

    Hepatitis: What Is It?

    “Hepatitis” refers to inflammation of the liver. There are many different potential causes of hepatitis. In most cases we hear about, hepatitis refers to a viral infection of the liver that causes long-term damage. The three most common types of hepatitis are A, B, and C.

    Learn more about the hepatitis C virus (HCV), as well as risk factors, in this slideshow.

  • How Is Hepatitis C Different from Other Types?

    How Is Hepatitis C Different from Other Types?

    Hepatitis A, B, and C are actually three different viruses. Hepatitis A only presents in an acute form, or a short-term infection. Hepatitis B and C begin as acute, but the virus can stay in the body and become chronic. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for preventing HCV as there is for hepatitis A and B.

  • How Is It Contracted?

    How Is It Contracted?

    Hepatitis C is contracted from the blood of an infected person. The most common causes of infection include contaminated drug needles and tattoo equipment, or accidental needle sticks in a healthcare setting.

  • Risk Factors for Hepatitis C

    Risk Factors for Hepatitis C

    At highest risk for HCV infection are people who:

    • use injectable street drugs
    • are on long-term dialysis treatment
    • receive tattoos or acupuncture from unlicensed providers
    • come into contact with blood on a regular basis
    • receive a blood transfusion or organ transplant from an infected donor (since 1992, all donors are screened for HCV)
    • are born to a mother with hepatitis C
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms

    Many people with hepatitis C, especially those who were recently infected, show no symptoms. Even those with chronic HCV infection may not know they are infected until they develop cirrhosis. The combination of several of the following symptoms could be telltale signs of an HCV infection with advanced liver disease:

    • yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
    • fatigue
    • nausea and/or vomiting
    • light colored stool
    • dark, tea-colored urine
    • swelling of the abdomen
    • fever
    • loss of appetite
  • Check with Your Doctor

    Check with Your Doctor

    If you have one or more risk factors for hepatitis C infection, you may want to talk to your doctor about a screening. Screening is vital even if you don’t display any symptoms, because HCV can be clinically silent for 20-30 years before eventually leading to cirrhosis, cancer, or death. Hepatitis C is a virus that can be cured, and if caught early, much of the resultant liver damage can be prevented. Because symptoms are often not present, you can’t depend on feeling “sick” to know for sure.

  • Diagnosing Hepatitis C

    Diagnosing Hepatitis C

    Generally, there are two blood tests that are used to diagnose hepatitis C. One looks for an antibody that the immune system produces in response to the virus. The other specifically tests for levels of the virus itself. Like many blood-borne pathogens identified over the past several decades, the hepatitis C virus was often spread through medical procedures before it was known to be disease causing.  Therefore, “baby boomers” (i.e. people born between 1945 and 1965) are encouraged to request a screening.

  • Topics for Discussion: Liver Damage

    Topics for Discussion: Liver Damage

    If diagnosed with hepatitis C, it is important to determine the extent to which your liver is damaged.  There are a number of tests to check the health of the liver. Successful hepatitis C treatments—ones that diminish or get rid of the virus and the accompanying inflammation—often pave the way for the liver to be able to repair itself.

  • Topics for Discussion: Genotypes

    Topics for Discussion: Genotypes

    There are six genotypes of the hepatitis C virus. The only way to know which type a patient has is through viral genetic testing. Some types are easier to treat than others, and treatment is often based on the specific genotype. You will want to discuss genetic testing, and the results, with your doctor before treatment options are selected.

  • Topics for Discussion: Treatment Options

    Topics for Discussion: Treatment Options

    Treatment for hepatitis C usually involves a combination of two or more antiviral medications, which are administered for at least a few months. Different drugs (and different combinations) have different side effects and success rates. The FDA’s approval of sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) in late 2013 is a watershed development for hepatitis C treatment. It can provide a cure for certain genotypes in a matter of weeks as part of a combination antiviral treatment program. Your doctor can go over the details, advantages, and disadvantages of the various treatment options available to you.

References:

Approval of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) tablets for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. (2013, December 7). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved April 29, 2014, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/byaudience/forpatientadvocates/ucm377920.htm
Diagnosis. (2014). American Liver Foundation. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/diagnosis/
Hepatitis C. (2012, November 16). MedlinePlus. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000284.htm
Hepatitis C FAQs for the public. (2014, February 10). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/cfaq.htm

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