Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is one type of hepatitis.
Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver that sometimes causes lasting damage. The liver isn’t able to work the way it should.
Hepatitis C can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
It is rare to recover from hepatitis C infection. Most people with hepatitis C have the virus for the rest of their life.
Hepatitis C is caused by infection from the hepatitis C virus. Like other viruses, hepatitis C is passed from person to person. This happens when you have contact with an infected person’s blood.
You may get the virus if you:
Babies may also get the disease if their mother has the hepatitis C virus.
Anyone can get hepatitis C by having contact with the blood of someone who is infected with the virus.
But some people are at higher risk for the disease. They include:
Many people with hepatitis C don’t know they have it. In most cases people who are infected with hepatitis C may not show any symptoms for several years.
It is still possible to pass the virus to someone else if you have hepatitis C but do not have any symptoms.
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Hepatitis C symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
Your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and ask about your past health. He or she will also do a blood test to see if you have hepatitis C.
If your provider thinks you have long-term (chronic) hepatitis C, he or she may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver with a needle. The sample is checked under a microscope to see what type of liver disease you have and how severe it is.
Hepatitis C is not treated unless it becomes a long-term or chronic infection. Then medicines are used to try to slow down or stop the virus from hurting your liver. Your symptoms will be closely watched and managed as needed.
If severe liver damage takes place, you may need a liver transplant.
There is no cure for hepatitis C.
Many people with hepatitis C develop chronic liver disease. You could need a liver transplant. Hepatitis C is the most common cause of liver transplants in the U.S.
Liver failure can lead to death.
The risk of liver cancer is higher in people with hepatitis C.
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. But you can protect yourself and others from getting infected by:
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