Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects nearly 30,000 new individuals each year. There are approximately 2,700,000 Americans who are chronically infected with hepatitis C.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
The majority of people will not exhibit any symptoms when first infected. Symptoms usually take years to appear. Symptoms of hepatitis C include:
- Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
- Dark Urine
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Can having hepatitis C lead to other problems?
This disease leads to chronic liver disease in 70% of chronically infected individuals. Chronic liver disease may lead to liver failure, liver cancer, and death. This is the number one reason for liver transplants in the United States.
How is hepatitis C transmitted?
This disease is transmitted by microscopic exchange of infected blood. The most common transmission occurs in I.V. drug use. Hepatitis C may be transmitted by any of the following:
- Sexual activity which includes anal or vaginal intercourse
- Intravenous (IV) drug use
- Although rare, mother to baby during birth
- Exposure to infected blood
How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
Hepatitis C may be diagnosed by your healthcare provider through a blood test. The Association recommends testing for anyone that has injected illegal drugs, received blood products before 1992, or had sex with someone who has used IV drugs.
What is the treatment for hepatitis C?
There are medications that eliminate the virus in approximately 40% of cases. For others that do not respond to these medications, there is no cure.
Can hepatitis C be prevented?
This disease may be prevented by refraining from sexual contact of any kind or being in a long-term monogamous relationship such as marriage. It may also be avoided by not using illegal I.V. drugs. There is no vaccine for this disease.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women.Faro, Sebastian, Ch. 14.