First identified in 1988, Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the infectious hepatitis C virus (HCV). An estimated 4million Americans and 170 million people worldwide are infected with HVC, and the majority of them are probably not even aware they are infected. Unfortunately, many of them cannot be readily identified because the disease does not cause symptoms until it is far advanced.
How serious is Hepatitis C?
Most persons who get hepatitis C carry the virus for the rest of their lives and eventually develop some degree of liver damage but many do not feel sick from the disease. Many persons with liver damage due to Hepatitis C may develop serious complications, such as cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and liver cancer.
How do you get Hepatitis C?
HVC is spread primarily by contact with the blood of an infected person. The most common ways of getting the virus are through:
Needle sharing and drug abuse Practicing unsafe sex Sharing personal care items that may contain blood Tattoos and Body Piercing
Can I be completely cured of the virus?
With the proper treatment, it is possible that the virus can be cleared from your body to the extent that it is no longer detectable and affecting your liver function. As a patient, you would be considered a sustained responder if the virus is undetectable in your blood for at least 6 months.
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
Hepatitis C is found through a blood test. Your doctor may also order a biopsy of your liver to assess the extent of liver damage, if any.
What are the treatment options available to infected persons?
The most effective form of treatment is a combination of interferon alfa with ribavirin. This combination therapy can cause some serious side effects and must only be taken under the supervision of your doctor.