Hepatitis C

(HCV; Hep C)

Definition

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis
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Causes

The 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 Factors

Factors 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
  • Tattooing
  • Body piercing
  • Having sex with partners who have hepatitis C or other sexually transmitted diseases

Symptoms

Most people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Over time, the disease can cause serious liver damage.Symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Darker colored urine
  • Loose, light, or chalky colored stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Aches and pains
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Cigarette smokers may suddenly dislike the taste of cigarettes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Chronic hepatitis C may cause some of the above symptoms, as well as:
  • Weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
Serious complications of hepatitis C include:
  • Chronic infection that will lead to cirrhosis (scarring) and progressive liver failure
  • Increased risk of liver cancer

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