What Do You Do If You Become Ill
Talk to your health care provider about getting tested if you think you:
- are at risk
- may have hepatitis C
If you have hepatitis C, tell those who may have been exposed to your blood or bodily fluids. They should get tested and be treated if necessary. Bodily fluids, like semen and vaginal fluid, are a concern because they could be carrying small amounts of infected blood.
Some adults with hepatitis C will recover from the disease on their own within 6 months. Until your health care provider confirms your recovery status, you are still contagious and can spread the disease.
After recovery, you are no longer contagious because you will not have the disease anymore. But you can get hepatitis C again.
Unfortunately, most adults with hepatitis C:
- cannot recover on their own
- develop a more serious form of the disease if they are sick for longer than 6 months
Hepatitis C Antibody Test
Certain foreign substances that enter your body trigger your immune system to make antibodies. Antibodies are specifically programmed to only target the foreign substance they were made to fight.
If youve ever had a hepatitis C infection, your body will make hepatitis C antibodies as part of its immune response.
Your body only makes these antibodies if you have hepatitis C or had it in the past. So the hepatitis C antibody test can confirm whether you have the virus by testing for these specific antibodies.
If the antibody test is positive, an HCV RNA test can show whether the infection is current.
While people of any gender experience the same hepatitis C symptoms, 2014 research suggested some effects of the virus may differ, depending on the sex you were assigned at birth.
Researchers noted that:
- women have a higher chance of clearing the virus without treatment
- liver disease may progress more rapidly in men
- men have a higher chance of developing cirrhosis
The Difference Between Hepatitis A B C
Hepatitis A, B, and C all cause liver infection and inflammation but are different viruses.
Hepatitis A tends to be a short-term infection that doesn’t become chronic in the majority of cases, while hepatitis B and C are more likely to remain in the body and cause chronic disease and long-term liver damage.
Hepatitis A is most commonly spread via close contact for example during sex with an infected person, or while caring for someone who is unwell with the virus. People can also ingest hepatitis A unknowingly via contaminated food and drink or items that have been contaminated with an infected person’s poop.
Hepatitis B is spread via infected blood, semen, and other body fluids, and hepatitis C is caught from infected blood.
There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but not hepatitis C.
Read Also: Hepatitis B Surf Ab Quant 3.1 Low
Acute Hepatitis C: What Are The Signs And Symptoms
For acute hepatitis C, the incubation period is two weeks to three months after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Most people who contract acute hepatitis C do not show any symptoms, the CDC notes. And because there are no symptoms, they never receive a diagnosis. But others with acute hepatitis C have the following symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or clay-colored feces
- Joint pain
For reasons that arent well understood, a small percentage of individuals exposed to HCV about 15 to 25 percent only develop an acute infection that clears out of the body spontaneously, says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Pittsburgh. The infection usually clears from the body within six months. The remaining 75 to 85 percent of those exposed to HCV develop chronic hepatitis C.
Among those who develop an acute infection with symptoms, symptoms typically last only 2 to 12 weeks.
Hepatitis C Testing And Diagnosis
Doctors will start by checking your blood for:
Anti-HCV antibodies: These are proteins your body makes when it finds the hep C virus in your blood. They usually show up about 12 weeks after infection.
It usually takes a few days to a week to get results, though a rapid test is available in some places.
The results can be:
- Nonreactive, or negative:
- That may mean you donât have hep C.
- If youâve been exposed in the last 6 months, youâll need to be retested.
If your antibody test is positive, youâll get this test:
HCV RNA: It measures the number of viral RNA particles in your blood. They usually show up 1-2 weeks after youâre infected.
- The results can be:
- Negative: You donât have hep C.
- Positive: You currently have hep C.
You might also get:
Liver function tests: They measure proteins and enzyme levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after youâre infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C. Learn the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.
Don’t Miss: Hepatitis C And Liver Cirrhosis
Diagnosis Of Hepatitis C
If you are at risk of hepatitis C infection, or think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the past, see your doctor for an assessment of your liver health. This will include blood tests and possibly a non-invasive test for liver damage .
There are 2 blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis C. Usually these can be done at the same time but sometimes they will be done separately.
The first test known as a hepatitis C antibody test can tell you whether you have ever been exposed to hepatitis C.
It may take 2 to 3 months from the time of infection until a blood test can detect antibodies to hepatitis C, so there is a window period during which you cannot tell if you are or have been infected. In this time, take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The second test is called hepatitis C PCR, which will be done if the antibody test is positive. This determines if the virus is still present in your blood or liver or if you have already cleared the infection.
If you have cleared the virus or had successful treatment to cure it, the PCR test will be negative.
A liver ultrasound or Fibroscan can also be performed to assess if you have any liver damage.
If your doctor is inexperienced in diagnosing hepatitis C you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
What To Do If You Have Hepatitis A Symptoms
If you have been exposed to hepatitis A and show the symptoms above, you need to contact your doctor and/or your local health department as soon as you can, according to the CDC. Once you get to see your doctor, they will run a blood test to confirm the infection diagnosis. Typically, health professionals want to see a patient within two weeks of viral exposure.
The two-week window is important because doctors can help treat hepatitis A with a single dose of the viral vaccine. But treatment only works within the first two weeks of exposure/infection.
Also Check: What Organ Does Hepatitis Affect
Chronic Hepatitis C: What Are The Signs And Symptoms
Even when an acute infection becomes chronic, it can be years before a person receives a diagnosis, thus delaying treatment. In fact, the majority of people with chronic hepatitis C are asymptomatic until the liver becomes severely damaged, often decades after exposure, says Dr. Adalja.
It’s common for people to unknowingly carry HCV until they go through a blood screening or other examination for reasons unrelated to hepatitis C.
However, chronic hepatitis C is a serious issue that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
You may have hepatitis C and not have any signs or symptoms.
For those who do have symptoms, you may experience:
- nausea and vomiting
Hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, as it causes swelling . This swelling causes scarring of the liver, which affects how the organ functions.
Liver scarring can worsen . This increases your chances of getting liver cancer.
How quickly your liver undergoes damage will depend on if you:
- use alcohol
- get hepatitis C after the age of 40
- have a human immunodeficiency virus co-infection
About 60% to 70% of people with hepatitis C do not develop symptoms until their liver has already been damaged.
You May Like: Side Effects Of Antiviral Drugs For Hepatitis B
Initial Hepatitis C Symptoms Are Often Mild Or Nonexistent
The illness occurs when people are exposed to blood that contains the hepatitis C virus by using contaminated needles, for example, or by getting a transfusion of blood that hasnt been screened for contaminants, according to the World Health Organization .
The first stage of infection, called acute hepatitis C, develops within six months of exposure to the virus. Most people dont look or feel sick at this point, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , but some people may experience symptoms, which include:
- Sore muscles and joints
- Yellowish color in the eyes and skin
If these problems are caused by acute hepatitis C, they usually appear about six to seven weeks after the infection took place the incubation window for the hepatitis C virus ranges from two weeks to six months. For approximately 15 to 25 percent of people infected with hepatitis C, the virus clears up on its own, without treatment, the CDC reports, while the remainder of those infected develop whats known as chronic hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C Symptoms And Treatment
Hepatitis C is part of a group of hepatitis viruses that attack the liver. It is commonly found in infected blood. It is also rarely found in semen and vaginal fluids.
The virus is usually passed on through using contaminated needles and syringes or other items with infected blood on them. It can also be passed on through unprotected sex, especially when blood is present.
It often has no noticeable symptoms. Some peoples bodies can clear the infection on their own but others may develop chronic hepatitis C and will need to take antiviral treatment to cure the infection and prevent liver damage.
- The basics
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Hepatitis C Sexually
Treatment And Medication For Hepatitis C
If you have acute hepatitis C, there is no recommended treatment. If your hepatitis C turns into a chronic hepatitis C infection, there are several medications available.
Interferon, peginterferon, and ribavirin used to be the main treatments for hepatitis C. They can have side effects like fatigue, flu-like symptoms, anemia, skin rash, mild anxiety, depression, nausea, and diarrhea.
Now youâre more likely to get one of these medications:
Find out more on treatment options for hepatitis C.
What Are The Symptoms And How Does Hepatitis C Progress
Many people with hepatitis C feel entirely well and have few or no symptoms. Any symptoms that may be present are often initially thought to be due to another illness. This may mean that hepatitis C may be diagnosed when you have had the virus for some time. Many people have hepatitis C without knowing it.
It is helpful to think of two phases of infection with HCV. An acute phase when you first become infected and a chronic phase in people where the virus remains long-term.
You May Like: Does The Hpv Vaccine Protect Against Hepatitis B
What Is Hepatitis C Infection How Many People Are Infected
Hepatitis C virus infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus . It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 41,200 new cases of hepatitis C occurred in 2016. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. About 75%-85% of newly infected people become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than 2 million people are estimated to be chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. HCV infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer. In 2016, 18,153 death certificates listed HCV as a contributing cause of death this is believed to be an underestimate.
Those who have cirrhosis from HCV also have a yearly risk of liver cancer of about 1%-5%.
When To Seek Medical Advice
See your GP if you persistently have any of the later symptoms listed, or if they keep returning. They may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C.
Read more about diagnosing hepatitis C
None of these symptoms mean you definitely have hepatitis C, but it’s important to get them checked out.
You should also speak to your GP about getting tested if there’s a risk you’re infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This particularly includes people who inject drugs or have done so in the past.
Read about the causes of hepatitis C for more information about who’s at risk of having the infection.
Page last reviewed: 27 October 2021 Next review due: 27 October 2024
Recommended Reading: How Can A Person Get Hepatitis
Should You Get Screened For Hepatitis C
Its important that the hepatitis C virus be detected early and that people who have it get treatment. Every person born between 1945 and 1965 the baby boomers should be tested for hepatitis C at least once, the CDC advises baby boomers are five times more likely to have this virus than other adults.
But since any signs and symptoms of this illness vary widely, and can change with the stage of disease involved, its also important to know your risk factors, which can include:
- Getting a tattoo or body piercing from someone who didnt use properly sterilized equipment
- Using intravenous drugs by means of a shared needle, or sharing a straw to inhale drugs
- Being a healthcare worker or working in another environment in which you could have come into contact with needles or blood infected with hepatitis C
- Having unprotected sex with multiple sex partners, having HIV , or having another sexually transmitted disease
- Being born to a mother who had hepatitis C when she was pregnant
- Undergoing hemodialysis for an extended period of time
- Receiving an organ transplant or blood transfusion before July 1992
- Receiving a blood clotting product made before 1987
Its simple to get screened for hepatitis C, says Dr. Hanje, and the treatment for this damaging liver disease is safe and effective. And if any concern about possible exposure to hepatitis C, he says, contact your doctor immediately for testing.
Additional reporting by Andrea Peirce
You Notice Unusual Abdominal Pain
Hepatitis C attacks the liver, which is located in the upper right half of your abdomen. While pain in the abdomen can be caused by other conditions, like gallstones or problems in the pancreas, a painful liver can also point to a more serious issue such as chronic liver disease or even liver cancer.
If you experience any pain or discomfort in your abdomen, dont wait for it to go away. Make an appointment with your doctor.
Don’t Miss: Where Can You Get Hepatitis B Vaccine
What Is The Treatment For People With Acute Hepatitis C Infection
When people first get hepatitis C, the infection is said to be acute. Most people with acute hepatitis C do not have symptoms so they are not recognized as being infected. However, some have low-grade fever, fatigue or other symptoms that lead to an early diagnosis. Others who become infected and have a known exposure to an infected source, such as a needlestick injury, are monitored closely.
Treatment decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Response to treatment is higher in acute hepatitis infection than chronic infection. However, many experts prefer to hold off treatment for 8-12 weeks to see whether the patient naturally eliminates the virus without treatment. Approaches to treatment are evolving. Patients with acute hepatitis C infection should discuss treatment options with a health care professional who is experienced in treating the disease. There is no established treatment regimen at this time.
How effective is hepatitis C treatment? Is hepatitis C curable?
If the hepatitis C RNA remains undetectable at the end of the treatment and follow-up period, this is called a sustained virologic response and is considered a cure. Over 90% of people treated with DAAs are cured. These people have significantly reduced liver inflammation, and liver scarring may even be reversed.
About 5% of people who are treated for HCV infection are not cured by some of the older regimens. These people may still have options for cure with the newer regimens.