War Related Illness and Injury Study Center
Hepatitis C is one type of hepatitis - a liver disease- caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It usually spreads through contact with infected blood. In rare instances, it also can spread through sex with an infected person and from mother to baby during childbirth.
Risk factors for Hepatitis C include:
- Contact with blood borne products;
- Exposure to blood contaminated needles;
- Using intravenous drugs;
- Getting tattoos in a facility that does not use sterile techniques; or
- Less commonly, engaging in unprotected sex with an individual who has Hepatitis C
In the early stages, Hepatitis C may present with no signs or symptoms. The most common early symptoms are:
- Mild fever
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
If Hepatitis C infection progresses and continues over the years, it can cause significant complications such as:
- Scarring of the Liver
- Liver Cancer
- Liver Failure
A blood test can be used to diagnose hepatitis C. If you have a mild infection, treatment may not be indicated. Antiviral medications may be indicated if you are at risk for liver problems related to the Hepatitis C infection. However, these medications may have side effects. For more severe infections, a liver transplant may be indicated.
If you are infected with Hepatitis C, it is important that you:
- Avoid Alcohol
- Make sure your doctor is aware of all medications you are taking as some medications may damage your liver
- Keep your body healthy by eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough rest, and getting regular exercise
- Take steps to prevent other from coming into contact with your blood
- Stay up to date with Hepatitis A and B vaccinations
Ways to protect yourself against Hepatitis C include:
- Not engaging in unprotected sex.
- Avoiding illicit injectable drugs.
- Avoiding contaminated needles.
- Wearing protective clothing if in contact with blood or other bodily fluids.