Screening for Hepatitis C
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. Hepatitis C is often asymptomatic. Untreated hepatitis C can cause serious liver disease, including cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, and impaired function of the liver. These complications can be avoided with timely identification and treatment for hepatitis C.
Should I be tested for hepatitis C? Certain individuals should be tested for hepatitis C.
- Individuals born in the years 1945-1965 may have hepatitis C with no identifiable risk factors. It is recommended that all individuals born in these years be tested for hepatitis C at least once in their lives.
- Individuals who received clotting factors made before 1987.
- Individuals who received blood or organ transplants before July 1992.
- Individuals who have a sex partner with hepatitis C.
- Individuals who were ever on chronic hemodialysis.
- Individuals with a history of illicit injection drug use or intranasal cocaine use.
How is testing done?
Testing for hepatitis C is done by testing your blood. Results will be available within 5-7 days.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Swelling in the belly and legs, fluid build up in the lungs; bruising or bleeding easily; trouble taking a full breath; feeling full in the belly; yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes; sudden onset of confusion.
Should I consider testing even if I feel fine?
Up to 50% of individuals in the United States with chronic hepatitis C infection are unaware of their diagnosis. Screening patients who may have an increased chance of being infected with hepatitis C virus is an important step toward improving the detection and treatment of infected individuals. Please bring up any questions you may have about hepatitis C testing to your health care professional.
How is hepatitis C treated?
Treatment depends on what type of hepatitis C you have. It is usually treated with oral medications that are taken for 3-6 months.