What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is when your liver becomes inflamed by an infection, virus, or injury. It can be either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic), depending on the specific type – A, B, C, D, or E. Types A, B, and C are the most common in the United States.
How do you get hepatitis?
Hepatitis A and E are usually spread through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C, and D mainly spread through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis B and D can also be passed through unprotected sex or sharing needles.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood and can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute hepatitis C can last up to 6 months and may go away on its own, but most cases become chronic and can lead to liver problems, including cancer or even death.
You can get hepatitis C from:
- Sharing drug injection equipment (the most common way).
- Accidental needle sticks in healthcare settings.
- Getting tattoos or piercings with tools that weren’t properly sterilized or previously used on an infected person.
- Direct contact with the blood or sores of an infected person.
- Having unprotected sex with an infected person.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
People with HIV, those with multiple sexual partners in the last six months, and people with STIs have a higher risk of hepatitis C infection. It’s important to get tested, especially if you’re at high risk.
While most people with hepatitis C don’t show symptoms, those with acute infection usually have symptoms within 1-3 months. Chronic hepatitis C typically remains symptom-free until complications arise, which can be decades later. Regular screenings are essential, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Symptoms of hepatitis C include:
- Dark yellow urine
- Gray or clay-colored stools
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
How is hepatitis C treated?
Hepatitis C treatment involves powerful antiviral medications. These treatments have advanced significantly, offering fewer side effects and shorter length of treatment, some as little as eight weeks.