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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C: Introduction

Hepatitis C is a form of hepatitis, a group of serious diseases that cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is an infectious form of hepatitis that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is one of the most common forms of hepatitis.

The liver is a vital organ, and normal functioning of the liver is crucial to health and life. Hepatitis C can eventually result in serious complications of the liver, such as the development of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure. This reduces liver's ability to do its vital job in helping the body to fight infection, stop bleeding, clear the blood of toxins, store energy, produce healthy blood, digest food, and remove waste. Hepatitis C is more likely than other forms of hepatitis to result in chronic hepatitis. Having hepatitis C also increases the risk of developing liver cancer.

The hepatitis C virus is spread by having contact with the blood of a person infected with the hepatitis C virus. High risk activities include sharing contaminated intravenous needles, or getting a tattoo or body piercing using unsterilized needles. Having unprotected sexual activity or having multiple sexual partners also increased the risk of contracting hepatitis C.

Prior to 1992, people who had a blood transfusion or organ transplant were at risk for hepatitis C. Prior to 1987 people who received transfusions of blood products, such as clotting factors, were also at risk. Today, this is no longer a risk for these types of patients because all blood products in the U.S. are now tested for hepatitis C.

There are generally no symptoms of hepatitis C until liver damage occurs. Liver damage and complications do not appear until ten to forty years after infection of hepatitis C. If there are symptoms they are vague and flu-like. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, and pain or tenderness in the right upper area of the abdomen where the liver is located. For more information about additional symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of hepatitis C.

Making a diagnosis of hepatitis C includes performing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination. This includes questions about risk factors for contracting hepatitis C, such as having unprotected sex, sharing intravenous needles, or having tattoos or body piercings that were made with unsterilized needles. A history of blood product transfusion or organ transplant before 1992 is another risk factor.

Diagnostic blood tests include tests that can check for the antibodies that the body makes to fight hepatitis C. Even though there are generally no symptoms for decades after hepatitis C infection, the antibody test can detect the disease as early as five weeks after infection. Because of this and because of the risks of developing serious long-term complications, it is generally recommended that all persons at risk be tested for hepatitis C.

Liver function tests are blood tests that can help to determine the level of severity of hepatitis C by checking the functioning of the liver and if there is any damage to the liver. Imaging tests that create a picture of the liver include an ultrasound, CT, and/or a nuclear liver scan.

It is very possible that a diagnosis of hepatitis C can be missed or delayed because there symptoms often do not appear for decades after infection when liver damage occurs. In addition, when early symptoms do occur, they can be similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information about diseases and conditions that can mimic hepatitis C, refer to misdiagnosis of hepatitis C.

There is no cure for hepatitis C. However, prompt diagnosis and treatment can help to slow the progress of liver damage. Treatment includes rest, ensuring good nutrition, and antiviral medications. For serious cases in which liver damage or liver failure has occurred, hospitalization may be necessary. Treatment in the hospital may include medications and other diagnostic testing and liver transplant. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of hepatitis C. ...more »

Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States. Approximately 3.9 million (1.8%) persons in ... more about Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C: Viral liver infection spread by blood. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Hepatitis C is available below.

Hepatitis C: Symptoms

In most cases there are no symptoms of hepatitis C infection until complications, such as liver damage or cirrhosis develop. This may not occur for ten to forty years after infection with hepatitis C.

If there are earlier symptoms they can include flu-like symptoms, fever, joint aches, nausea, muscle aches and weakness. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain in the ...more symptoms »

Hepatitis C: Treatments

The most effective treatment plan for hepatitis C uses a multifaceted approach. Treatment plans are individualized to best fit the patient's age, medical history, and type and stage of the disease. The goal of treatment is to stop or lessen damage to the liver and minimize and quickly diagnose and treat any complications, such as such as cirrhosis of the liver.

The first ...more treatments »

Hepatitis C: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of hepatitis C may be overlooked or delayed because there often are no symptoms until complications occur. In addition, symptoms, such as flu-like symptoms, fever, poor appetite, fatigue, and weakness, may be similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions, such as influenza, cirrhosis of the liver, flu, and other forms of hepatitis, such as ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Treatments for Hepatitis C

  • Hepatitis C is rarely diagnosed in its acute phase and treatment is usually aimed at management of the chronic infection. Treatments include:
    • Avoidance of alcohol and medications that may worsen hepatic function, or rely on the liver for metabolism
    • Antiviral therapy - Ribavirin - usually used in conjunction with interferon
    • Interferon
    • Liver transplantation - used in selected patients for acute fulminant liver failure and end stage disease not responding to other therapy
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Hepatitis C:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C: Related Patient Stories

Hepatitis C: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Hepatitis C.

Alternative Treatments for Hepatitis C

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Hepatitis C may include:

Types of Hepatitis C

Diagnostic Tests for Hepatitis C

Test for Hepatitis C in your own home

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Hepatitis C: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Hepatitis C:

Causes of Hepatitis C

Read more about causes of Hepatitis C.

More information about causes of Hepatitis C:

Disease Topics Related To Hepatitis C

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Hepatitis C

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be...read more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance. The digestive system...read more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad"...read more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" ...read more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed (it can, of course, also fail to be diagnosed with fatal...read more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see symptoms of celiac...read more »

Chronic liver disease often undiagnosed: One study reported that 50% of patients with a chronic liver disease remain undiagnosed by their primary physician. The reasons are multifactorial. Possible conditions include...read more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of the better known possibilities are ...read more »

Hepatitis C: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Hepatitis C

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Hepatitis C:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Hepatitis C, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Hepatitis C: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Hepatitis C

Medical research articles related to Hepatitis C include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Hepatitis C: Animations

Prognosis for Hepatitis C

Research about Hepatitis C

Visit our research pages for current research about Hepatitis C treatments.

Clinical Trials for Hepatitis C

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Hepatitis C include:

Prevention of Hepatitis C

Prevention information for Hepatitis C has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Hepatitis C.

Statistics for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C: Broader Related Topics

Hepatitis C Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Hepatitis C, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States. Approximately 3.9 million (1.8%) persons in the United States are infected with HCV. About 7% of these may have acquired their infection from blood transfusion. (Source: excerpt from Facts About Hepatitis C: CDC-OC)

Definitions of Hepatitis C:

RAEB: Used for the diseases or the viruses. - (Source - Diseases Database)

A viral hepatitis clinically indistinguishable from hepatitis B but caused by a single-stranded RNA virus; usually transmitted by parenteral means (as injection of an illicit drug or blood transfusion or exposure to blood or blood products) - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

 

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