Hepatitis C is a liver infection that can lead to serious liver damage. It’s caused by the hepatitis C virus. About 750,000 3.9 people in Cambodia have the disease. But it causes few symptoms, so most of them don’t know. The virus spreads through an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus, or HCV. The most common in the U.S. is type 1. None is more serious than any other, but they respond differently to treatment.
The hepatitis C virus affects people in different ways and has several stages:
Many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. But between 2 weeks and 6 months after the virus enters your bloodstream, you could notice:
Hepatitis C spreads when blood contaminated with the hepatitis C virus gets into your bloodstream through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.
You can be exposed to the virus from:
You can’t catch hepatitis C through:
Get more information on how hepatitis C is spread.
You could notice acute symptoms along with:
The CDC recommends you get tested for the disease if you:
Know more about the risk factors for hepatitis C.
Doctors will start by checking your blood for:
Anti-HCV antibodies: These are proteins your body makes when it finds the hep C virus in your blood. They usually show up about 12 weeks after infection.
If your antibody test is positive, you’ll get this test:
HCV RNA: It measures the number of viral RNA (genetic material from the hepatitis virus) particles in your blood. They usually show up 1-2 weeks after you’re infected.
As part of the diagnosis process, you might also get:
Liver function tests: They measure proteins and enzyme levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after you’re infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C. Learn the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
If you have acute hepatitis C, there is no recommended treatment. If your hepatitis C turns into a chronic hepatitis C infection, there are several medications available:
Interferon, peginterferon, and ribavirin used to be the main treatments for hepatitis C. They can have side effects like fatigue, flu-like symptoms, anemia, skin rash, mild anxiety, depression, nausea, and diarrhea.
But hepatitis C treatments have changed a lot in recent years. Now you’re more likely to get one of these medications:
The most common effects of hepatitis C drugs depend on the medicine and often include:
About 75% to 85% of people who have it get a long-term infection called chronic hepatitis C. If the condition goes untreated, it can lead to:
There’s no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. To help avoid getting the virus:
Find out more on how to prevent hepatitis C.
The goal of antiviral medications is a condition called sustained virologic response. If your blood tests negative for the virus 3 months after you complete treatment, you’re considered cured.