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Hepatitis C – What You Need to Know

Hepatitis C is a viral infection.

Viral infections include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. There is a lot of misinformation about Hepatitis C. The more we know about this disease the better we can be at both preventing and treating it.

Hepatitis C is spread by blood to blood contact with a person who is infected with the Hepatitis C virus.

How Hepatitis C can be transmitted

We most commonly think about intravenous drug users who share needles and infect themselves. We also know that intranasal drug use is another method of transmission. Because the virus can survive outside of the body for a few days, it could linger on a straw, dollar bill, or some other shared method of intranasal drug paraphernalia and be spread from one person to another.

Hepatitis C can also be passed through sexual intercourse – both homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

It can be spread through non sterile medical equipment – meaning medical supplies that were not cleaned well enough after previous use. Similarly, Hepatitis C can be spread through needles used for tattoos that have not been cleaned adequately between use.

Prior to the mid 1990s we did not routinely test blood products for the hepatitis virus. Any person who had a blood transfusion prior to 1992 should be tested for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is generally a silent disease.

This means that you most likely will not feel sick. Even routine labs with your physician may not pick this up. Although Hepatitis C affects the liver, very often a person with the virus has normal liver tests.

Diagnosis is made with a simple blood test. It is often overlooked because people do not know they have risk factors. It is importance to ask your doctor to check you for the Hepatitis C virus if you have any of the above risk factors.

Left untreated, Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer in additional to many other associated complications.

Treatment for Hepatitis C

As of today we have multiple medications that have been able to cure Hepatitis C. These medications can be prescribed by your primary care doctor or more commonly by a liver specialist, known as a gastroenterologist or a hepatologist. These medications have very few side effects. They have success rates of greater than 95%, whether or not you have been treated in the past or have cirrhosis. In the past treatment could last longer than 12 months and often included injections. Now treatment is generally no more than 12 weeks and no longer requires injections. Many regimens are made up of not more than one pill daily.

Hepatitis C is a widespread infection. Because it does not cause acute illness, many people do not know that they are infected.

It is important to ask you health care provider to test you. To schedule an appointment with your PMA PCP call (888) 227-3762 or to find a provider, click here