Understanding Hepatitis C: Diagnosis and Treatment

stethoscope with letters spelling hepatitis

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by HCV (hepatitis C virus). Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood contact with infected people. Unfortunately, many people with hepatitis C do not show any signs of infection. Symptoms of hepatitis C may vary — approximately, 50% of adults show no signs of infection while the other 50% show concerning symptoms. 

Hepatitis C is usually more concerning than other hepatitis viruses. This is because hepatitis C has a higher potential of becoming a chronic, long-term condition, whereas hepatitis B is transmitted through bodily fluids and is more likely a short-term condition. 

Acute hepatitis C vs. chronic hepatitis C

Acute hepatitis C

Acute hepatitis C is a short-term condition that typically lasts around 6 months while your body is busy fighting off the virus. 

Chronic hepatitis C

Chronic hepatitis C is a severe, long-term condition that occurs when the body is unable to fight off the virus. Early diagnosis of hepatitis C can help prevent the possibility of the infection from becoming chronic. If you suspect you have hepatitis C, it’s important to get medical attention immediately to prevent serious liver damage. This being said, some symptoms are unrecognizable, and therefore a higher percentage of people living with hepatitis C may experience it as a chronic condition. 

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Understanding hepatitis C starts with being able to identify signs and symptoms of the viral infection. In some cases, however, your symptoms may not be apparent or it may take decades for you to notice your symptoms.

Take note of the following symptoms if you think you may be infected with hepatitis C: 

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Grey Stool
  • Joint Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Weight Loss
  • Loss of Appetite 
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes) 
  • Dark yellow urine 

Causes of hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is contracted through blood-to-blood contact with HCV-contaminated individuals and has more than 6 strains or genotypes. Some common ways of contracting hepatitis C include: 

  • Sharing drug needles or other paraphernalia with an infected individual
  • Tattoo or body piercing equipment that has not been properly sanitized before and after every use
  • Open wound contact with infected individuals 
  • Being birthed by a woman who has HPC
  • Sharing hygienic tools such as razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes with an infected person
  • Participating in unprotected sex with an individual with HCV

Myths: Causes of Hepatitis C

Part of understanding hepatitis C is understanding what misinformation is often spread around the infection. The points listed below are myths surrounding contracting HCV, and they are not conclusive ways to contract the virus. 

  • Drinking dirty water or eating rotten foods
  • External skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual (holding hands, hugging, etc)
  • Sharing cutlery with an infected individual
  • Sitting beside an infected person
  • Being around someone who is coughing or sneezing while being infected with HCV

Diagnosing hepatitis C

If you or someone you care for is at risk of being infected with hepatitis C, it’s extremely important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. While getting this type of information may be scary, getting tested is crucial for your health and wellbeing. Getting an early diagnosis can ease symptoms or reduce the likelihood of developing a chronic condition. Hepatitis C is diagnosed through a variety of testing methods, including blood tests, physical exams, and/or liver exams (including biopsy). To learn more about blood test information, please take a look through this information.

Some examples of the different types of blood tests completed for screening are:

  • Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA)
  • Enhanced chemiluminescence immunoassay (CLIA)
  • Microparticle immunoassay 
  • Qualitative nucleic acid test to detect the presence of HCV RNA
  • Qualitative nucleic acid test to detect levels of HCV RNA

To learn more about preparing for a blood test, read the articles provided for you here

Treatment of Hepatitis C

While hepatitis A and B both have successful vaccines tested and curated for infected individuals, hepatitis C is still without a vaccine – making proactive treatment a bit more challenging for at-risk individuals. Antiviral medications have been found to be successful in attacking the virus within the body in most hepatitis cases, which include both acute and chronic conditions. 

The bottom line

Hepatitis C is concerning, regardless if it is acute or chronic. Understanding hepatitis C starts with research and the advice of well-established doctors. 

With over 3,500 tests available, Your Health Lab offers many options and resources for monitoring your liver health. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider to decide which preventative healthcare test is right for you. 


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