(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
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