Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver. Most people infected with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms. In fact, most don't know they have the infection until liver damage shows up, sometimes decades later, or through detection during a routine medical exam.

Symptoms

Hepatitis C usually produces no signs or symptoms during its earliest stages. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue or muscle and joint pains
  • Fever
  • Nausea or poor appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Causes

Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is spread when you come in contact with contaminated blood – often through shared use of needles. Your risk of hepatitis C is increased if you:

  • Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood
  • Have ever injected illicit drugs
  • Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992

Diagnosis

Testing for hepatitis C in people who have a high risk of the virus may help doctors recommend options to slow liver damage. This is recommended because hepatitis C often begins damaging the liver before it causes symptoms. Blood tests may help diagnose the virus as well as evaluate the disease and determine treatment options.

Treatment

Treatment for hepatitis C isn't always necessary. Your provider may recommend follow-up tests to monitor your liver for damage. When treatment is recommended, it may include antiviral medications, vaccinations to protect against other forms of hepatitis. If your liver has been severely damaged, transplant may also be an option. Northeast Digestive Health Center's comprehensive Hepatitis C Clinic offers a wide range of treatment and monitoring options. 

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