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Hepatitis C Overview

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver and is the most common, long-lasting bloodborne infection in the United States. The hepatitis C virus was first discovered in 1989. It is often asymptomatic, but can display symptoms that mimic the flu. The first six months of this infection is known as acute hepatitis C. It is possible to clear a hepatitis C infection and stop it from progressing if it is discovered early on. After six months of infection, hepatitis C progresses to the chronic stage (known as chronic hepatitis C) and becomes a serious disease that can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and death. The CDC estimates that 2.7 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C.

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Hepatitis C is a liver infection that is symptomless 80% of the time. When it does present symptoms, they can mimic the flu. About 3.2 million people in the US have Hepatitis C and 3 out of 4 who are infected don’t even know they have it.

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What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

Acute hepatitis C does not usually show symptoms. As a result, most people with the disease are not be aware of it. When acute hepatitis C symptoms do appear, they are usually flu-like: Fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Other symptoms of hepatitis C include jaundice, joint pain, dark urine and/or gray-colored stool.

With chronic hepatitis C infections, symptoms often do not arise for many years-- often not until serious liver damage has already occurred. Chronic hepatitis C can be very serious and may result in symptoms like abdominal pain, excessive bleeding, joint pain, weight loss and other signs of poor liver function.

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is transmitted when an infected person's blood enters the body of an uninfected person. This happens mainly through sharing of needles or other drug injection equipment, accidental needle sticks (in healthcare setting, for instance) and by being born to a mother with hepatitis C. It is also possible to contract hepatitis C through unprotected sexual intercourse, especially for those that are HIV positive. Hepatitis C cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites. There are no records of known hepatitis C transmissions through mosquito bites worldwide.

How hepatitis C testing works

The Hepatitis C Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA) test is a blood test that searches for antibodies to the virus that causes hepatitis C. Our FDA-approved Hepatitis C test is highly sensitive and detects antibodies within 8-9 weeks of the initial infection. When you contract hepatitis C, your body develops antibodies to fight off the virus. Our test looks for the presence of these antibodies in your system. Our hepatitis C test is simple. All it takes is a few minutes and a quick blood draw. Your results will be available within 1-2 business days. If your results come back positive, our Care Advisors will put you in touch with one of our doctors who will advise you on your treatment options.

Where to get tested for hepatitis C

STDcheck.com has over 4,500 testing centers throughout the United States with some locations open on Saturday for your convenience. To find a local hepatitis C testing center near you, simply go to our STD test center location page and enter your zip code. You will be given a list of nearby centers. Choose a location and complete your order. You can also call us at 1-800-456-2323 or use our live chat feature and one of our certified health specialists will be happy to assist you with choosing a local STD testing center.

Is hepatitis C treatable?

Hepatitis C is treatable if it is diagnosed at an acute stage . Acute hepatitis C infections will sometimes go away on their own after a short period. If diagnosed at a chronic stage, hepatitis C infections may require antiviral medications to prevent more damaging effects from the virus.

Effects of untreated hepatitis C

Since hepatitis C infections do not always display symptoms, the only way to really know if you have been infected is to get tested. Untreated chronic hepatitis C is very dangerous. It can lead to a host of illnesses, including liver failure, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer or even death. Also unlike hepatitis A & B, there is no vaccine to prevent against contracting the hepatitis C virus.

Is hepatitis C preventable?

To help prevent contracting hepatitis C, use a condom or dental dam every time you engage in sexual activity. Do not share needles, razor blades or toothbrushes with anyone who is infected with hepatitis C.

People who are at higher risk for contracting hepatitis C include:

  • Intravenous drug users
  • Individuals born between 1945-1965
  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • People with other STDs
  • People who get tattoos or piercings with non-sterile equipments.
  • Individuals who received blood transfusions before 1992
  1. "CDC DVH - Know More Hepatitis - Timeline of Hepatitis C." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/timeline.htm
  2. "Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for Health Professionals | CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm
  3. Chou, Roger. "Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection." National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK43243/
  4. "Resources for Writers." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/HepatitisC.html

Medically Reviewed by on Jun 18, 2019

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