Hepatitis C is another virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It is transmitted via exposure to infected human blood, most commonly through needles (intravenous drug use, tattoos from unsterilized equipment, accidental needle sticks, etc.) or a blood transfusion prior to 1990. Rarely it can be spread by sexual exposure. Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is no available immunization against this virus.
Hepatitis C has both an acute and a chronic form, but at least 75 percent of hepatitis C infections are chronic. Chronic hepatitis C is a risk factor, over time, for cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Many people who have hepatitis C do not experience symptoms; their infection is discovered only when they are screened for HCV or their liver function is compromised or they begin to show the signs of liver disease.
The most common symptoms of chronic Hep C:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Itching, skin rash
Even when hepatitis C is asymptomatic it may be passed to others.
The specialists at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center work together to manage the disease with both non-invasive treatments and surgical procedures, when necessary.
There are drug treatments available for hepatitis C, most commonly an antiviral combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin . People with hepatitis C should be tested in order to discover the type of hepatitis C genotype they have; since treatment may vary according to the specific variety of the virus.
At MedStar Health, our patients with hepatitis C are given comprehensive care and are monitored on an ongoing basis for the development of liver disease. Even when the "viral load" of hepatitis C is very low or non-existent, people with chronic hepatitis C should not drink alcohol, as this can speed the scarring of the liver associated with cirrhosis and serious liver disease.