Hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver and can be very serious. However, in the early stages of the disease, most people don’t perceive any symptoms, so it can be hard to tell if you have it.
Hepatitis is most commonly caused by the hepatitis viruses—hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus is considered the most serious of the hepatitis viruses.
How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
Since it can be difficult to tell, based on symptoms, whether you have contracted hepatitis C, you can be tested for it. A simple blood test can confirm whether you have the condition.
After your doctor gets the results of your blood test, they may recommend that you undergo a biopsy of your liver to determine if you have liver damage from chronic hepatitis C.
The symptoms of hepatitis c include:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
- Swelling in your legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)
How do you treat hepatitis C?
In the past, there was no medication to treat hepatitis C. However, over the last few years, medications have been approved to cure the disease. If you have symptoms, or you’re found to have an asymptomatic chronic infection, your doctor will likely refer you to a liver specialist who can help determine the best course of treatment. Your doctor can also monitor your symptoms and perform blood tests to confirm whether certain treatments are working for you.
Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body. The goal of treatment is to have no hepatitis C virus detected in your body at least 12 weeks after you complete treatment.
If you have developed serious complications from chronic hepatitis C infection, liver transplantation may be an option. During liver transplantation, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their .
Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, your doctor will likely recommend that you receive vaccines against the hepatitis A and B viruses. These are separate viruses that also can cause liver damage and complicate the course of chronic hepatitis C.