When you or someone you know is living with hepatitis C, or even if you just think you may have it, it’s important to be armed with as much knowledge as you can. Learning about it will give you a better understanding of the condition and how to manage or help someone else manage it. Here’s some basic information to help get you started.

Hepatitis C—sometimes called HCV—is a virus that leads to inflammation of the liver. The virus causes the immune system to attack healthy liver cells.

The hepatitis C virus is spread when your blood comes into contact with infected blood.

This can happen in many different ways:Hepatitis-C-liver

  • Tattoos done with contaminated needles or by a nonprofessional
  • Blood transfusions and organ transplants (infections caused this way are much less common in the United States since 1992)
  • Mother-to-child transfer at birth
  • Hemodialysis
  • Sexual contact with someone who has hep C (in rare cases)
  • Sharing a straw to snort drugs
  • Sharing dirty needles

No one living with hep C is alone. The disease affects about 3.2 million people in the United States. For every 100 people with the virus, 75 to 85 will develop chronic hep C. Of the people with chronic hep C:

  • 5% to 20% will eventually develop cirrhosis
  • 1% to 5% with cirrhosis will develop liver cancer each year

Symptoms like jaundice, poor appetite, fatigue, or belly pain may appear in the acute stage or the chronic stage of the disease. However, many people may not experience any symptoms of hep C over the 2 or more decades of the disease’s progression.

No matter the stage of the hep C infection, symptoms may not appear even though liver damage could be happening. In fact, for many, there are usually no symptoms with chronic hep C infection until liver disease, like cirrhosis or liver cancer, becomes advanced. That’s why it’s important to get the condition diagnosed as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one are concerned that you may hepatitis C contact a physician at Norwich GI Associates to review you treatment options

People with a high risk for having hep C who may want to ask their doctors about getting tested include:

  • Anyone born between 1945 and 1965
  • People exposed to unsanitary piercing or tattoo equipment
  • Children born to mothers with hep C
  • People who have had long-term hemodialysis
  • Healthcare and emergency workers who have been exposed to infected blood or have had accidental needlestick injury
  • People with hemophilia who were treated with clotting factors before 1987
  • People who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992
  • People with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
  • People who were in jail or prison
  • Anyone with unexplained liver problems or inflammation, including abnormal liver tests
  • Anyone with current or past injection orintranasal drug use

Other people at risk for hep C include:

  • Anyone who has had sexual contact with a person who has hep C
  • People who have shared personal care items (like razors, toothbrushes, or nail clippers) that may have come into contact with the blood of someone with hep C