Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). 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.
Factors that may increase your chance of hepatitis C include:
Most people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Over time, the disease can cause serious liver damage.
Symptoms may include:
Chronic hepatitis C may cause some of the above symptoms, as well as:
Serious complications of hepatitis C include:
You 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:
Your liver function may be evaluated. This can be done with liver function studies.
Images may be needed of your liver. This can be done with an ultrasound.
Hepatitis C is usually treated with combined therapy, consisting of:
You will be advised to stop drinking alcohol and smoking, which can further damage your liver, especially when undergoing treatment. If you have problems stopping alcohol, your doctor can refer you to counseling or a treatment program. There are several ways to successfully quit smoking.
In unsuccessful cases, chronic hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis and serious liver damage. A liver transplant may be needed, although it does not typically cure hepatitis C.
To prevent becoming infected with hepatitis C:
To prevent spreading hepatitis C to others if you are infected:
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
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Last reviewed September 2016 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD, FACP Last Updated: 10/8/2015