Hepatitis C (hep C) is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation, and is spread only through exposure to an infected person's blood.
Hepatitis is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. The liver is used to fight infections, filter our blood and processes nutrients, making it one of the most vital organs in our bodies. However, its function can be affected when the liver is damaged or inflamed. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus but certain medical conditions, heavy alcohol use, some medications and other toxins, can cause hepatitis, too.
The most common types of viral hepatitis in the US are hepatitis A, B and C. Different types of viral hepatitis causes similar symptoms, however, they are spread in different ways, have different treatments, and some are more serious than others.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV or hep C) is spread only through exposure to an infected person's blood. Activities that put you at high-risk of transferring infected blood:
Sharing equipment used for drug use
Sharing tools used for tattoos or piercings
Non-sterile medical equipment
Sharing of grooming and hygiene supplies
Needle stick injuries
Symptoms of Hep C
There are many people that won't know they're infected, and even if they do, they don't show signs or symptoms of hepatitis C. In the event that symptoms are occurring, they can include:
Pain in the abdomen
Gastrointestinal bleeding, bloating, fluid in the abdomen, or nausea
Fatigue, fever, or loss of appetite
Web of swollen blood vessels in the skin or yellow skin and eyes
Depression or weight loss
Chronic hepatitis C can allow people to live for years without symptoms, but when symptoms do appear with chronic hep C, it is usually a sign of advanced liver disease.
What to Expect When Getting Tested
HCV usually consists of of developing a chronic, lifelong infection. When hepatitis C has been left untreated, chronic hep C has shown to cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.
The HCV antibody test, is a blood test, that is used to find out if someone has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. The anti-HCV test looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus in someone's blood. You can receive test results anywhere from a few days to weeks or 20 minutes with a rapid anti-HCV test.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the two most common viral hepatitis infections transmitted through drug injection use. Chronic HCV infections are a major cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality, but antiviral treatment leading can lead to a sustained viral response (SVR).
If you have ever injected drugs or if you're currently injecting, you should talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested for hepatitis C and the specialty medications offered.