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Signs and symptoms
  1. Hepatitis C
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Doctors use blood tests to screen for hepatitis C. Screening tests can help doctors diagnose and treat hepatitis C before it causes serious health problems. Without treatment, hepatitis C may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C can prevent these complications. Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly breaks down and is unable to function normally.

Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and partially blocks the flow of blood through the liver. In the early stages of cirrhosis, the liver continues to function. However, as cirrhosis gets worse, the liver begins to fail. Also called end-stage liver disease, liver failure progresses over months, years, or even decades. With end-stage liver disease, the liver can no longer perform important functions or replace damaged cells. Having chronic hepatitis C increases your chance of developing liver cancer. If chronic hepatitis C causes severe liver damage or cirrhosis before you receive hepatitis C treatment, you will continue to have an increased chance of liver cancer even after treatment.

Your doctor may order an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer.

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Finding cancer at an early stage improves the chance of curing the cancer. Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with an acute hepatitis C infection may have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include. If you have chronic hepatitis C, you most likely will have no symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.

The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C.

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Contact can occur by. Doctors diagnose hepatitis C based on your medical history, a physical exam, and blood tests.

Hepatitis C

If you have hepatitis C, your doctor may perform additional tests to check your liver. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and whether you have any history of blood transfusions or injected drug use. During a physical exam, your doctor will typically examine your body to check for signs of liver damage such as. Doctors use blood tests to diagnose hepatitis C. Your doctor may order additional tests to check for liver damage, find out how much liver damage you have, or rule out other causes of liver disease.

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Your doctor may order one or more blood tests to diagnose hepatitis C. A health care professional will take a blood sample from you and send the sample to a lab. Your doctor may recommend additional tests to find out whether you have liver damage, how much liver damage you have, or to rule out other causes of liver disease. These tests may include.

Talk with your doctor about which tests are best for you. Doctors treat hepatitis C with antiviral medicines that attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases. Several newer medicines, called direct-acting antiviral medicines, have been approved to treat hepatitis C since Studies show that these medicines can cure chronic hepatitis C in most people with this disease.

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These medicines can also cure acute hepatitis C. In some cases, doctors recommend waiting to see if an acute infection becomes chronic before starting treatment. Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these newer, direct-acting antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C:. You may need to take medicines for 12 to 24 weeks to cure hepatitis C. Your doctor will prescribe medicines and recommend a length of treatment based on. Your doctor may order blood tests during and after your treatment.

Blood tests can show whether the treatment is working. Hepatitis C medicines cure the infection in most people who complete treatment. Hepatitis C medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines. For safety reasons, talk with your doctor before using dietary supplements , such as vitamins, or any complementary or alternative medicines or medical practices. Some may experience ongoing episodes of abdominal pain, persistent fatigue, and aching joints.

After 25 to 30 years, this chronic infection may result in significant scarring, or fibrosis, of the liver. If the entire liver becomes scarred, this can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, and possibly liver cancer. The overall health of the infected individual and their liver will determine how quickly damage and possible progression to cirrhosis will occur.

The genotype of the virus plays less of a role than the physical health of the person with HCV. Viruses are inactive until they enter the living cell of a host. They will then hijack the hardware of the cell to make copies of themselves. Chronic HCV infection consists of millions, or possibly billions, of copies of the virus circulating within the body. For a blood-to-blood infection to occur, blood from an infected person must enter the body of someone who is not infected.

The biggest risk factor for becoming infected with HCV is sharing needles or equipment used to inject drugs. HCV is not transmitted through casual contact, respiratory droplets, sharing food, kissing, or mosquito bites. A speck of blood so small that it is not viewable to the naked eye can carry hundreds of hepatitis C virus particles.

Cleaning a needle with alcohol, rinsing it with soap and water, and even letting the needle and syringe air-dry for several days will not kill the virus. Once the virus is injected into the body, even if on only one occasion, exposure has occurred and infection is possible. Injecting drugs causes approximately 67 percent of global cases. These include :.

Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public | CDC

HCV is often overlooked or mistaken for a less severe viral illness. It is rare for the infection to be diagnosed during the acute phase.

Hepatitis C: CDC Viral Hepatitis Serology Training

The immune system of a person infected with HCV responds to the infection and, in only 20 percent of cases, will clear the virus without assistance. The remaining 80 percent of cases will turn chronic, and it can become possible to spread HCV to others without knowing. Screening tests are available for people the CDC have determined are at risk.

Otherwise, the blood is drawn from a vein and processed at a lab. A negative test means that the person has not been exposed. A positive test means that the person has been exposed to HCV, but does not necessarily prove ongoing infection. This test will demonstrate whether the virus is still present.

It is important to note that the positive antibody test will always remain positive, whether or not the virus is still present. Once the chronic infection is confirmed, the genotype of the virus is established by testing. This will determine the percentile cure rate, the length of treatment, and the preferred medications. In some instances, a liver biopsy may be recommended for grading the severity of the disease, staging the degree of fibrosis, and evaluating the extent of liver damage.

The choice of medication and duration of treatment depends on the genotype of the virus. Genotype 1a is the most prevalent in the US, and presently there are several recommended treatment options using a combination of powerful antiviral medications.


These medications work by targeting specific steps in the HCV life cycle to disrupt the reproduction of viral cells. Before the availability of DAAs, the treatment for chronic HCV was lengthy and uncomfortable, with less than ideal cure rates. Now the cure rates are over 90 percent. The average duration of treatment is 8 to 12 weeks. The medications are well-tolerated, with the most common side effects being headache and fatigue. Check with your insurer whether they cover DAA combination therapy, and what information they need to approve coverage.