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Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus that is typically transmitted through contaminated blood and can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, leading to severe liver damage.

Causes of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV)and is not transmissible by breast milk, food, water or through any casual contact from an infected person.

Common ways that hepatitis C virus can spread include:

  • Sharing contaminated needles and syringes 
  • Unprotected sex with someone with hepatitis C (even if they don’t have symptoms)
  • Receiving a transfusion of unscreened blood or blood products
  • An infected pregnant mother passing the virus to their unborn baby
  • Organ transplants

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

The condition is usually asymptomatic in the early stages. The symptoms may develop many years after the initial infection as a result of serious liver damage. Hepatitis C symptoms include:

  • Easy bleeding 
  • Easy bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of weight
  • Jaundice (yellow discolouration on the skin and eyes) 
  • Dark urine
  • Itching of the skin
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Blood vessels on the skin in a spider-like pattern
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


A blood test can be carried out to detect the presence of anti-HCV antibodies in people who might be infected. If an initial blood test shows that you have hepatitis C, then additional blood tests will be done:

  • To measure the quantity of the hepatitis C virus in the blood 
  • To identify the genotype(genetic makeup) of the virus

Hepatitis C screening is recommended in the following individuals:

  • People who inject recreational drugs
  • People in prison
  • Children born to infected mothers
  • People with sexual partners who are hepatitis C-infected
  • People with HIV infection
  • People with tattoos or piercings
  • Anyone with abnormal liver function test results with no identified cause
  • Health care workers who are exposed to contaminated blood and needles

Treatment for Hepatitis C

 Treatment for Hepatitis C includes:

  • Medications: The drugs used to treat hepatitis C include interferons and antiviral drugs.
  • Liver transplantation: In extreme cases, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy one.
  • Vaccinations: There is no vaccination available for hepatitis C, so your doctor might recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and B viruses since these viruses can complicate the course of chronic hepatitis C.


Precautions for hepatitis C include: 

  • Avoiding sharing needles, syringes, razors, or manicure tools 
  • Avoiding exposure to infectious blood and blood products
  • Choosing tattoo and piercing parlours licensed by health departments
  • Practising safe sex

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