An infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and causes inflammation. The virus is spread by contact with contaminated blood; for example, sharing needles or non-sterile tattooing equipment. Most people don’t have any symptoms. Those who develop symptoms may have fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the eyes and skin. Hepatitis C is treated with antiviral drugs. In some people, newer medicines can eradicate the virus.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin

Risk factors

Your risk of hepatitis C infection is increased if you:

  • Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood, which may happen if an infected needle pierces your skin
  • Have ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
  • Have HIV
  • Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
  • Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
  • Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
  • Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection
  • Were ever in prison

Prevention

Protect yourself against hepatitis C by taking the following precautions:

  • Stop using street drugs, especially if you inject them. If you use illegal drugs, get help.
  • Be careful with body piercing and tattooing. If you choose to have a piercing or tattoo, look for a reputable store. Ask questions in advance about how the equipment is cleaned. Make sure employees use sterile needles. If employees don’t answer your questions, look for another store.
  • Practice safe sex. Do not engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners or with a partner whose state of health is uncertain. Sexual transmission between monogamous couples can occur, but the risk is low.

Treatment

Modern treatments can cure hepatitis C in most cases. These treatments involve a combination of antiviral drugs taken for 8 to 24 weeks. Direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) can cure most cases of chronic hepatitis C and acute hepatitis C. These are modern drugs approved in 2013. The drugs are well tolerated with the most common side effects being headache and fatigue. These drugs work by targeting specific stages in the HCV life cycle to disrupt the reproduction of viral cells.

DAAs to treat hepatitis C include:

  • elbasvir/grazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Mavyret)
  • ledipasvir/sofosbuvir(Harvoni)
  • peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys)
  • sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)

The choice of medication and duration of treatment depends on the genotype of the virus. Genotype 1a is the most prevalent in the U.S.

People can get vaccinated to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but there is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C. To prevent infection, people should avoid exposure to the virus that causes it. cause. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent hepatitis C is to stop injecting. Using drug treatments such as methadone or buprenorphine reduces the risk because they do not involve injections. If a person continues to inject, they can reduce their risk of hepatitis C by using a new needle for each injection, by never sharing needles with another person, and by ensuring that the environment, the site injection equipment and all equipment are clean and sterilized prior to injection. .

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