What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis doesn’t actually refer to a specific disease, but means ‘inflammation of the liver’. However, while some medications and alcohol can cause this inflammation, most types of Hepatitis are caused by a viral infection.

Unfortunately, chronic types of hepatitis can be hard to diagnose, as they don’t initially cause symptoms and progress very gradually.

Hepatitis C is a viral form of hepatitis contracted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, such as unprotected sex or sharing needles during intravenous drug-taking. It’s also one of the most prevalent viral infections acquired by blood transfusion in the US. While most people experience a long-term, chronic form of the disease, making it hard to detect, around 15-30% have acute (short-term) hepatitis C. This acute form does produce identifiable symptoms.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

While chronic hepatitis C may be practically asymptomatic until it has progressed to causing liver damage, acute hepatitis C does display symptoms, including:

  • Lethargy/fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Nausea, vomiting and upset stomach

Symptoms of advanced hepatitis C can include:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Pale stools
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Bruising easily
  • Finding that bleeding takes longer to stop

What is the medical treatment for hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is usually treated with 1 to 3 medications. These regimes include drugs that boost your immune system and antivirals that attack the hepatitis C virus directly.

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