Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is swelling that happens when tissues of the body are injured or infected. Inflammation can damage organs.
There are different types of hepatitis. One type, hepatitis C, is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic:
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with the blood of someone who has HCV. This contact may be through
Without treatment, hepatitis C may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C can prevent these complications.
Health care providers diagnose hepatitis C based on your medical history, physical exam, and blood tests.
If you do have hepatitis C, you may need additional tests to check for liver damage. These tests may include other blood tests, an ultrasound of the liver, and a liver biopsy.
You are more likely to get hepatitis C if you
If you are at high risk for hepatitis C, your health care provider will likely recommend that you get tested for it.
Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with acute hepatitis C do have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you probably will not have symptoms until it causes complications. This can happen decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
Treatment for hepatitis C is with antiviral medicines. They can cure the disease in most cases.
If you have acute hepatitis C, your health care provider may wait to see if your infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
If your hepatitis C causes cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Treatments for health problems related to cirrhosis include medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If your hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
You can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by