(HCV; Hep C)
DefinitionHepatitis C is an infection of the liver with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
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CausesThe hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person.A woman with hepatitis can pass the virus on to her baby during birth. The hepatitis C virus is not spread through food or water.
Risk FactorsFactors that increase your chance of this infection:
- Injecting illicit drugs, especially with shared needles
- Receiving a blood transfusion before 1992—this risk is low in the United States.
- Receiving blood clotting products before 1987
- Receiving an HCV-infected organ transplant
- Long-term kidney dialysis treatment
- Sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, or other personal hygiene items that have HCV-infected blood on them
- Being accidentally stuck by an HCV-infected needle—a concern for healthcare workers
- Frequent contact with HCV-infected people—a concern for healthcare workers
- Body piercing
- Having sex with partners who have hepatitis C or other sexually transmitted diseases
SymptomsMost people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Over time, the disease can cause serious liver damage.Symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Darker colored urine
- Loose, light, or chalky colored stools
- Abdominal pain
- Aches and pains
- Joint pain
- Cigarette smokers may suddenly dislike the taste of cigarettes
- Severe fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Chronic infection that will lead to cirrhosis (scarring) and progressive liver failure
- Increased risk of liver cancer
DiagnosisYou will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will also discuss your risk factors.Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Liver biopsy
TreatmentHepatitis C is usually treated with combined therapy, consisting of:
- Medication to boost the immune system
- Antiviral medications
PreventionTo prevent becoming infected with hepatitis C:
- Do not inject illegal drugs. Shared needles have the highest risk. Seek help to stop using drugs .
- Do not have sex with partners who have sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Practice safe sex (using latex condoms) or abstain from sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Do not share personal items that might have blood on them, such as:
- Manicuring tools
- Pierced earrings
- Avoid handling items that may be contaminated by HCV-infected blood.
- Donate your own blood before elective surgery to be used if you need a blood transfusion.
- Go to regular check ups and get tested for hepatitis C and other STDs as advised.
- Tell your dentist and physician before receiving check-ups or treatment.
- Get both a hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccination.
- Do not donate blood or organs for transplant.
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
Canadian Liver Foundation
Chang MH, Gordon LA, Fung HB. Boceprevir: A protease inhibitor for the treatment of hepatitis C. Clin Ther. 2012 Sep 10. pii: S0149-2918(12)00490-0. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2012.08.009. [Epub ahead of print]
Hepatitis C. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 25, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014
Hepatitis C information for the public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/index.htm. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
Sexual transmission of hepatitis C virus among HIV-infected men who have sex with men—New York City, 2005-2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Jul 22;60:945-50.
Sexually transmitted diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm. Updated September 11, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
What is a blood transfusion? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bt/. Updated January 30, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.
What I need to know about hepatitis C. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hepc%5Fez/. Published April 2009. Updated December 19, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.
12/9/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: US Food & Drug Administration. FDA news release: FDA approves new treatment for hepatitis C virus. Food & Drug Administration website. Published November 22, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2013.
4/29/2014 12/9/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases/Infectious Diseases Society of America (AASLD/IDSA) recommendations on testing, managing, and treating hepatitis C. Available at: http://www.hcvguidelines.org/fullreport. Updated March 21, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
10/8/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) recommendations on testing for sexually transmitted infections in men who have sex with men. Available at: http://www.bashh.org/documents/BASHH%20Recommendations%20for%20testing%20for%20STIs%20in%20MSM%20-%20FINAL.pdf. Updated 2014. Accessed October 8, 2014.
- Reviewer: Kim Carmichael, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 10/08/2014