Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C can be the most dangerous of the hepatitis viruses.
Hepatitis C Infection Information
HCV is transmitted primarily through blood-to-blood contact via transfusions or contaminated needles, although it has been spread through sexual contact in rare cases. Transmission to newborn babies from their mothers can occur but is much less common than with HBV. No matter how it is acquired, hepatitis C is the form of viral hepatitis most likely to cause chronic infection. Like HBV, HCV can cause permanent liver damage.
According to the CDC, 55 percent to 85 percent of those infected with HCV will end up with chronic hepatitis C. HCV may linger for decades before an infected person develops symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, fatigue, and dark-colored urine. But the CDC says 80 percent of people with hepatitis C don't experience any symptoms at all, even though the virus may be slowly invading the liver and possibly causing serious damage. Hepatitis C can be managed with infection-fighting drugs. Many people with chronic hepatitis C die with -- not of -- the infection.
Who's at Risk for Hepatitis C?
Intravenous drug users are at highest risk, as are people who received blood-clotting factors that were made before 1987. Those who received an organ transplant or blood before 1992 (when better testing for HCV was made available) should be tested for hepatitis C. People who've had previous liver problems, babies born to infected mothers, and those who work in jobs where they might be exposed to blood are also at increased risk.
Defensive Measures Against Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but if you think you might have been exposed to HCV, being tested can get you on a medication regimen early. Otherwise, avoid blood-to-blood contact, especially by steering clear of unsanitized needles (including those used for tattooing and piercing), others' personal items that might carry blood (including razors and toothbrushes), and intravenous drug use. The CDC estimates that IV drug use accounts for 60 percent of all new cases of hepatitis C and is a major risk factor for infection with HBV.
Luckily, some hepatitis infections are quite mild and can even come and go without treatment. However, hepatitis infections can be very serious. Seek medical advice immediately if you believe yourself to be at risk for a dangerous hepatitis infection.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers magazine and Southern Living magazine. Mann formerly was an assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.