What Is It?• Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks your liver.• It is by far the most serious of hepatitis infections, partly because it shows little to no symptoms.
How Can I Contract It?• Hepatitis C is transmitted through infected blood. This includes: Shared Needles Blood transfusions and organ transplants before 1992 Babies born to women with the virus Sexual contact
What Increases My Chance Of Infection?• You are at high risk if you are in the aforementioned groups and/or: Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood Have HIV Have received body piercings or tattoos in unsanitary environments Received clotting factor concentrates pre-1987 Received hemodialysis treatments for long periods of time
Should I Get Screened?• For high-risk patients, testing may help doctors start treatment or slow liver damage.• High-risk patients should start screening as early as possible.• Blood tests will help to: Determine if you are infected with the virus Measure the quantity in your blood (viral load) Evaluate genetic makeup of the virus (genotyping) to guide treatment decisions• Your doctor might recommend a liver biopsy (inserting a thin needle to extract tissue) to determine the severity of liver damage.
How Does Treatment Work?• Being diagnosed doesn’t mean you need treatment. If you have only slight liver damage, treatment might not be needed, because the risk of future problems is low. Future blood tests may be recommended.• The hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body. This could be a combination of drugs taken over several weeks.
How Does Treatment Work? (continued)• Once your first round of medication is complete, your doctor will test your blood for the virus. If it is still present, you may need a second round of drugs.• Antiviral medications can have serious side effects such as depression and flu-like symptoms that may be serious enough to stop or delay treatment.
How Does Treatment Work? (continued)• If your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During this, a surgeon will remove your liver and replace it with a healthy one.• Note that this is NOT a cure. Since the infection will likely reoccur in the new liver, treatment will continue.