Schedule: Monday - Thursday: 8:00a - 5:00p  |  Friday: 8:00a - 2:00p

Hepatitis C Clinic in Concord, NC

What is Hepatitis C?

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

Common Symptoms of Hepatitis C

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)

Common Causes of Hepatitis C

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

How To Get Diagnosed

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.

Are There Any Risk Factors For Hepatitis C

Yes, several risk factors are associated with the transmission of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Here are common risk factors for contracting hepatitis C:

  • Injection Drug Use: The most significant risk factor for hepatitis C transmission is the sharing of needles and other equipment used to inject drugs. People who inject drugs are at a higher risk of contracting and spreading HCV.
  • Blood Transfusions and Organ Transplants (before 1992): Before widespread screening of the blood supply for HCV, there was a risk of transmission through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since 1992, blood and organ donations in many countries are routinely screened for HCV.
  • Medical Procedures with Contaminated Equipment: Inadequately sterilized medical equipment, especially in healthcare settings with poor infection control practices, can contribute to the transmission of HCV.
  • Mother-to-Child Transmission: While less common than with hepatitis B, there is a risk of mother-to-child transmission during childbirth. The risk is higher if the mother has a high viral load or is co-infected with HIV.
  • Unsafe Tattooing and Body Piercing: Procedures involving the use of unsterilized equipment for tattooing, body piercing, or acupuncture can pose a risk of HCV transmission if the equipment is contaminated with infected blood.
  • Occupational Exposure to Blood: Healthcare workers or others who may come into contact with blood in their jobs are at an increased risk if proper infection control measures are not followed.
  • HIV Infection: Co-infection with HIV increases the risk of contracting HCV, as both viruses share similar transmission routes.
  • Sexual Transmission: While less common than other modes of transmission, sexual activity can be a risk factor, especially for those with multiple sexual partners or engaging in practices that may cause bleeding.
  • HCV-Positive Partner: Having a sexual partner who is infected with HCV can increase the risk of transmission, particularly in the presence of other risk factors.

It's important to note that hepatitis C is not spread through casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing eating utensils. The majority of individuals with hepatitis C do not have symptoms initially, so it's possible to have the virus and unknowingly transmit it to others.

Possible Complications of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C (HCV) can lead to various complications, particularly when the infection becomes chronic. Many people with hepatitis C may not experience symptoms initially, but over time, the virus can cause liver damage, inflammation, and other health issues. Here are some possible complications associated with chronic hepatitis C:

  • Liver Cirrhosis: Chronic inflammation of the liver caused by HCV can lead to the development of cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is characterized by the scarring of liver tissue, which can impair liver function. Cirrhosis is a serious and irreversible condition.
  • Liver Cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma): Chronic hepatitis C infection increases the risk of developing liver cancer. Liver cancer often develops on a background of cirrhosis, and regular monitoring is important for early detection and intervention.
  • Liver Failure: In advanced stages of liver disease, the liver may no longer function properly, leading to liver failure. Liver failure is a life-threatening condition that may require a liver transplant.
  • Portal Hypertension: Cirrhosis can lead to increased pressure in the portal vein, a major blood vessel that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver. This condition, known as portal hypertension, can cause complications such as varices (enlarged blood vessels) in the esophagus or stomach, which may rupture and result in severe bleeding.
  • Ascites: Cirrhosis can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, a condition known as ascites. Ascites can cause abdominal swelling and discomfort.
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy: Liver dysfunction can result in the accumulation of toxins in the blood, affecting brain function. Hepatic encephalopathy can lead to confusion, cognitive impairment, and, in severe cases, coma.
  • Kidney Disease: Hepatitis C has been associated with an increased risk of kidney disease, particularly in individuals with advanced liver disease.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: There is evidence suggesting a link between chronic hepatitis C infection and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It's important to note that the progression to severe complications can take many years, and not everyone with chronic hepatitis C will develop these complications. The risk of complications is influenced by factors such as the duration of infection, age, other medical conditions, and lifestyle factors.

What to Expect about Hepatitis C Treatment at Concord, NC

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, and vaccinations to protect against other forms of hepatitis. If your liver has been severely damaged, a transplant may also be an option. Northeast Digestive Health Center's comprehensive Hepatitis C Clinic offers a wide range of treatment and monitoring options.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is the most common type of chronic viral infection occurring in blood in the United States. Anywhere from 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the US have hepatitis C. Many people who have hepatitis C do not know they have the condition.

Who gets hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C occurs among people of all ages. Some people have a higher risk for developing hepatitis C, including:
- People who have injected drugs
- Those who had received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- People who have hemophilia and who received clotting factor products before 1987
- Individuals on kidney dialysis
- Those with HIV infection
- Children born to HCV-positive mothers
- Healthcare workers who have been in contact with blood or infected needles
- People who have tattoos or piercings

How does hepatitis C progress?

In its early stages, hepatitis C causes no symptoms or causes very mild symptoms – many people are unaware that they have the disease. If these symptoms develop in the initial stages, they usually go away within a few weeks. About 15 to 25 percent of people infected with HCV will fight off the disease and suffer no long-term effects.
Between 75 and 85 percent of people infected with HCV will develop a chronic hepatitis C infection. Still, many will not experience symptoms of the disease, even years after infection. The infection will remain with them until they undergo treatment.
Ten to 20 percent of those with chronic infections will experience gradual liver damage over the years and eventually develop cirrhosis. This can take 20 years or longer after the initial infection.

Does hepatitis C ever go away on its own?

Hepatitis C goes away on its own without treatment in about 15 to 25 percent of people infected with the hepatitis C virus.

Can I drink alcohol if I have hepatitis C?

Alcohol can contribute to worsening liver disease by causing inflammation and scarring. Hepatitis C can make your liver more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Consult with your doctor to learn if any amount of alcohol is safe for you to drink.

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Contact Info

Northeast Digestive Health Center
1070 Vinehaven Drive NE
Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: (704)783-1840
Fax: (704)783-1850
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