What is Chronic Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection often caused by a virus. This condition largely affects the liver, and is a very common infection among adults in the United States.
Most people (about 70% – 80%) with an acute Hepatitis C infection do not show signs of Hepatitis C. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within two weeks to six months after being exposed to the virus. If you do develop symptoms relating to Hepatitis C, they’re generally mild and flu-like and may include:
- Feeling very tired
- Sore muscles
- Joint pain
- Nausea or poor appetite
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- A yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes, called jaundice.
Since most people go on to develop chronic Hepatitis C and still have no symptoms or signs of Hepatitis C, it’s common to have Hepatitis C for 15 years or longer before being diagnosed. Because the virus stays in your body you can give it to someone else. However, Hepatitis C isn’t easy to catch and if you take a few precautions it is unlikely you will pass it on.
Who Is At Risk?
Many patients that contract the disease do so through contact with infected blood via drug use, tattoos and sexual contact.
Diagnosis begins with a history and physical with final confirmation via blood testing.
Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body. Your doctor may recommend a combination of two to three medications to be taken over several months or longer. Many blood tests and doctor visits are necessary during this time so that your response to treatment can be carefully monitored and evaluated.