What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that can harm the liver. It is different from both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
How does someone get Hepatitis C?
People typically can get Hepatitis C by being exposed to the blood of someone who already has it. The most common ways people can get it are:
- Using infected needles for tattoos, acupuncture or piercings
- Share razors or any personal hygiene items that may have blood on them
- Sharing drug needles
- Got a blood transfusion in the United States before 1990 (after 1990, we started screening blood for Hepatitis C)
- Rarely, you can get Hepatitis C from having sexual relations with someone who is infected
- Pregnant women can give Hepatitis C to their babies
I was told I have Hepatitis C, but I feel fine?
Most people with Hepatitis C do not know they have it until they are tested. Others may feel tired or weak, lack of hunger, muscle aches, or weight loss. The problem with Hepatitis C is that if it is left untreated or unchecked for a long period of time, it can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver down the road. Therefore, it’s important to test for it and potentially treat early, before it causes symptoms.
How do you test for Hepatitis C?
People born between 1945 and 1965 should get screened for Hepatitis C. It is important to know that there are two kinds of tests.
- Screening Test: The screening test is usually done by your primary care doctor and can tell us whether or not you have been exposed to Hepatitis C. If you are found to be positive for Hepatitis C, it does not mean you necessarily have it right now. In some cases, people’s bodies are able to clear the Hepatitis C on their own and they don’t live with the long term consequences. We determine this is by a second blood test, which shows if you actually have it in your blood.
- The Blood Level Test: This is a test which actually determines whether you have it in your blood. If you do, you may be eligible for treatment depending on a few different factors.
How do you treat Hepatitis C?
The treatment we choose depends on a few things:
- The type of Hepatitis C you have (there are 6 different tests and we check this with a blood test)
- How scarred your liver is (so we do an ultrasound that checks how scarred your liver is).
There are several medications we can choose from to treat your Hepatitis C. Usually, the treatment is an oral pill that lasts three months. It is very important to take the dose everyday and not miss any doses in order for your Hepatitis C to be effectively treated. During your treatment, you will need to follow up with your doctor and get some routine blood testing. Treatment is important because it is a cure for Hepatitis C in most cases.
What can I do to protect my liver?
- Stop drinking alcohol
- Avoid any herbal medications such as milk thistle and liver teas
- Maintain a healthy wait
- Get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B as well as vaccinations for flu, pneumonia, COVID