What Do I Need To Know About Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease.
Hepatitis (HEP-ah-TY-tis) makes your liver swell and stops it from working right.
You need a healthy liver. The liver does many things to keep you alive. The liver fights infections and stops bleeding. It removes drugs and other poisons from your blood. The liver also stores energy for when you need it.
What Causes Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus.
A virus is a germ that causes sickness. (For example, the flu is caused by a virus.) People can pass viruses to each other. The virus that causes hepatitis C is called the hepatitis C virus.
How Could I Get Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C spreads by contact with an infected person's blood.
You could get hepatitis C by
You can NOT get hepatitis C by
Could I Get Hepatitis C From a Blood Transfusion?
If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, you might have hepatitis C.
Before 1992, doctors could not check blood for hepatitis C, and some people received infected blood. If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, ask a doctor to test you for hepatitis C.
What Are the Symptoms?
Many people with hepatitis C don't have symptoms.
However, some people with hepatitis C feel like they have the flu.
So, you might
Some people have
If you have symptoms, or think you might have hepatitis C, go to a doctor.
What Are the Tests for Hepatitis C?
To check for hepatitis C, the doctor will test your blood.
These tests show if you have hepatitis C and how serious it is.
The doctor may also do a liver biopsy.
Biopsy (BYE-op-see) is a simple test. The doctor removes a tiny piece of your liver through a needle. The doctor checks the piece of liver for signs of hepatitis C and liver damage.
How Is Hepatitis C Treated?
Hepatitis C is treated with a drug called interferon.
Interferon (in-ter-FEAR-on) is given through shots.
If the drug does not work after 3 months, treatment will be stopped. If the drug does work, you will be treated with it for a year. Interferon doesn't work for everyone, so doctors are developing and testing other drugs.
You may need surgery if you have hepatitis C for many years. Over time, hepatitis C can cause your liver to stop working. If that happens, you will need a new liver. The surgery is called a liver transplant. It involves taking out the old, damaged liver and putting in a new, healthy one from a donor.
How Can I Protect Myself?
You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis C:
For More Information
You can also get information about hepatitis C from these groups:
American Liver Foundation
You can get a free copy of each of these booklets by calling (301) 654-3810, or by writing to
Hepatitis information for health professionals is also available.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
2 Information Way
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 under the U.S. Public Health Service. 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. NDDIC answers inquiries; develops, reviews, and distributes publications; and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.
Publications produced by the clearinghouse are reviewed carefully for scientific accuracy, content, and readability.
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This article was provided by U.S. National Institutes of Health. Visit NIH's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.