What I Need to Know About Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a liver disease. Hepatitis * means inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is the painful, red swelling that results when tissues of the body become injured or infected. Inflammation can cause organs to not work properly.
The liver is an organ that does many important things.
You cannot live without a liver.
The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C. Viruses are germs that can cause sickness. For example, the flu is caused by a virus. People can pass viruses to each other.
Anyone can get hepatitis C, but some people are at higher risk, including
You could get hepatitis C through contact with an infected person's blood.
You could get hepatitis C from
You cannot get hepatitis C from
Most people have no symptoms until the virus causes liver damage, which can take 10 or more years to happen. Others have one or more of the following symptoms:
Hepatitis C is chronic when the body can't get rid of the hepatitis C virus. Although some people clear the virus from their bodies in a few months, most hepatitis C infections become chronic. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis; liver cancer; and liver failure.
Symptoms of cirrhosis include
Hepatitis C is diagnosed through blood tests, which can also show if you have chronic hepatitis C or another type of hepatitis. Your doctor may suggest getting a liver biopsy if chronic hepatitis C is suspected. A liver biopsy is a test for liver damage. The doctor uses a needle to remove a tiny piece of liver, which is then looked at with a microscope.
Hepatitis C is not treated unless it becomes chronic. Chronic hepatitis C is treated with drugs that slow or stop the virus from damaging the liver.
Drugs for the Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C
Chronic hepatitis C is most often treated with the drug combination peginterferon and ribavirin, which attacks the hepatitis C virus. Peginterferon is taken through weekly shots and ribavirin is taken daily by mouth. Treatment lasts from 24 to 48 weeks.
A liver transplant may be necessary if chronic hepatitis C causes liver failure. Liver transplantation surgery replaces a failed liver with a healthy one from a donor. Drug treatment often must continue because hepatitis C usually comes back after surgery.
You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis C if you
See your doctor and get tested if you are at higher risk of getting hepatitis C or if you think you were exposed to the hepatitis C virus. Many people do not know they are infected. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) conducts and supports basic and clinical research into many digestive disorders, including hepatitis C.
Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research. For information about current studies, visit www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
American Liver Foundation
You can get a free copy of each booklet by calling 1-800-891-5389, by going online to www.catalog.niddk.nih.gov, or by writing to
Hepatitis information for health professionals is also available.
Publications produced by the Clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. The individuals listed here provided editorial guidance or facilitated field-testing for the original version of this publication. The NDDIC would like to thank these individuals for their contribution.
Bruce Bacon, M.D.
Theo Heller, M.D.
Luby Garza-Abijaoude, M.S., R.D., L.D.
Thelma Thiel, R.N.
This publication may contain information about medications. When prepared, this publication included the most current information available. For updates or for questions about any medications, contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toll-free at 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332) or visit www.fda.gov. Consult your doctor for more information.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1980, the Clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.
This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.
This article was provided by National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.