Hepatitis C: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yumhee Park | Oct 3, 2014 Sept 1, 2003

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What is hepatitis C? Are there symptoms? Is there a cure? Am I at risk? Find out the answers to these questions with this FAQ.

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What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver that can be either acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis C is a short-term illness that occurs within 6 months of first exposure to the virus. Many times, this form of hepatitis C becomes chronic, leading to life-long health problems with the liver, including cirrhosis which is scarring of the liver as well as liver cancer.

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How does hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C usually spreads when infected blood enters the body. This can happen through sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Rarely, hepatitis C can be spread by using personal care items like razors or toothbrushes or having sexual contact with a person who has the virus.

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Who is most at risk for hepatitis C?

People who share or used to share needles or other equipment to inject drugs are at risk as well as people who received blood transfusions, products, or organ transplants before 1992 when widespread screening of blood began in the United States. Other people at risk include healthcare workers who are exposed to infected needle sticks as well as HIV infected people and children born to mothers with hepatitis C.

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What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

With acute hepatitis C, 70 to 80 percent of infected people do not display symptoms. Some people do end up having mild to severe symptoms including fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and more. Chronic hepatitis C is also largely asymptomatic until someone has been infected for a long period of time and the liver has been affected.

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How does hepatitis C affect pregnancy?

Four out of 100 infants born to mothers with hepatitis C become infected with the virus, but this kind of transmission is rare. This risk is increased if the mother also has HIV.

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Is hepatitis C genetic?

Hepatitis is an infectious disease and not hereditary.

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Who should get tested for hepatitis C?

Anybody who is at risk for hepatitis C should get tested, but baby boomers are five times more likely to have the disease. The Center for Disease Control recommends anyone born from 1945 to 1965 get tested for hepatitis C.

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What should I do if I am diagnosed with hepatitis C?

It’s important to discuss all options and results with your doctor, to alert loved ones, do your own research, find support groups, and more.

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What are my treatment options for hepatitis C?

Acute infections can go away on their own without treatment in about 25 percent of people. Both acute and chronic hepatitis C can be treated with a combination of shots and pills, but since most people do not know they have it, it can often be a complicated procedure to heal the body from the virus once it’s reached a certain stage.

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Can I use the Pill if I have hepatitis C?

While most oral contraception pills are safe for women with hepatitis C, pills that contain estrogen are not considered safe for women with severe liver disease.

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Should there be a change in diet or exercise when diagnosed with Hepatitis C that might help the condition?

Leading a healthy lifestyle can only be beneficial to your overall health, even if you are living with hepatitis C. You should avoid foods that will put stress on your liver, such as alcohol, and get in regular exercise, while eating healthy foods with a lot of nutrients.

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Any new developments in a cure for hepatitis C?

Two new hepatitis C drugs were approved by the FDA in 2013 which are very effective in clearing the virus from the body, up to 80 to 95 percent. Currently, it’s moderately accessible in India, but not as much in the United States due to its high price. Therefore, it is a recommended treatment when the liver is in a more serious state.