Hepatitis C Infection (HCV, Hep C)

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Author: Siddharth Bansal, MD
    Siddharth Bansal, MD

  • Medical Author: Ashwani Singal, MD, MS, FACG
  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

View Hepatitis C Slideshow Pictures

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Most people who contract hepatitis C (hep C) have no symptoms. However, those that do have symptoms may experience:

  • fatigue,
  • loss of appetite,
  • muscle and joint pains.
  • nausea,
  • abdominal pain,
  • vomiting...

Quick GuideHepatitis C Pictures Slideshow: Transmission, Symptoms and Treatment

Hepatitis C Pictures Slideshow: Transmission, Symptoms and Treatment

Hepatitis C infection (HCV) facts

  • Hepatitis C is one of several viruses that cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
  • About 3.5 million people are estimated to be currently infected with hepatitis C in the U.S.
  • Up to 85% of individuals who are initially (acutely) infected with hepatitis C will fail to eliminate the virus and will become chronically infected.
  • Hepatitis C is spread through exposure to infected blood. Intravenous drug abuse with the use of contaminated, shared needles is the most common mode of transmission.
  • The risk of acquiring hepatitis C through sexual contact or breastfeeding is very low.
  • Generally, people with chronic infection with hepatitis C have no symptoms until they have extensive scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Some individuals, however, may have fatigue and other non-specific symptoms before this occurs.
  • In the U.S., infection with hepatitis C is the most common cause of chronic hepatitis and the most common reason for liver transplantation.
  • Much progress has been made in the treatment of hepatitis C. The rate of cure has increased (above 90%-95%) with the development of direct-acting, all-oral antiviral medications.
  • Treatment results in reduced inflammation and scarring of the liver in most patients who are cured of hepatitis C and also occasionally (but to a much lesser extent) in those who relapse or are not cured.

What is hepatitis C infection, and how many people are infected?

Hepatitis C infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (also referred to as HCV). It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 29,718 new cases occurred in 2013. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. Up to 85% of newly-infected people fail to eliminate the virus and become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than three million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. Hepatitis C infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/12/2016

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