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Hepatitis C

Pokenga ate C

Illustration showing the position of the liver in a man's body with an indication that it is affected by the hepatitis C virusHepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of your liver. The virus is carried in blood and can only be passed to someone when the blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. The most common way this happens is through sharing needles.

If left untreated, Hepatitis C can cause liver disease (cirrhosis), liver failure and liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is diagnosed by blood testing and can usually be cured with medication.

Risk factors for hepatitis C

People at risk of getting hepatitis C include those who:

Symptoms of hepatitis C

Many people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected.

If they do have symptoms, they can appear any time from 2 weeks to 6 months after infection. In some cases, it can take many years for symptoms to develop.

Symptoms may include:

Diagnosing hepatitis C

The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested. This can either be done with a blood test arranged by your general practice or a finger prick test available at some clinics.

The test is to see if you have hepatitis C antibodies. If this test is positive, it means you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus sometime in your life. This may have been within the past few months or many years ago.

If you have a positive test, you will need another blood test to check if you currently have hepatitis C virus in your blood. You may also need further testing of your liver to check for damage. This may include a painless liver scan called a FibroScan.

Treating hepatitis C

Treatment for hepatitis C can cure more than 90% of people infected with the virus after 8 to 12 weeks of treatment.

The usual treatment is with a tablet, glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Maviret). This is free when a general practice prescribes it.

You may need to see a specialist if you have problems with your liver or if the medication does not work for you.

Self-care for hepatitis C

While you are taking treatment for hepatitis C it is also important to look after the health of your liver by:

It can also help to stay a healthy weight, not smoke and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. This is because being overweight, smoking and having more than one type of hepatitis can increase the chances of your liver being damaged if you have hepatitis C.

Preventing hepatitis C

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C but there are things you can do to avoid becoming infected and spreading the hepatitis C infection.

Hepatitis C is not spread through food or close personal contact, such as handshaking, hugging and kissing. It is spread when the blood from an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. To avoid this happening:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021. Last updated October 2023.

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Page reference: 55301

Review key: HIHEP-49691