Hepatitis C

WHAT IS IT?

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can lead to serious liver damage.

HOW WOULD I GET IT?

Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. Some of the ways in which people get Hep C include the following:

  • Having unprotected sex, especially if it is rough sex (like fisting), group sex, or sex during a woman’s period. Having open sores or STIs such as herpes and HIV greatly increases the risk.
  • Sharing drug-use equipment (e.g. needles, syringes, filters, cookers, acidifiers, alcohol swabs, tourniquets, water, crack pipes, and snorting straws) with an infected individual.
  • Sharing needles with an infected person for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture, and/or electrolysis
  • Sharing or borrowing hygiene items that might have blood on them, such as razors, nail clippers, and toothbrushes.
  • Having received a blood transfusion, blood products, or a transplant before 1992.
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD IT?

Many people infected with Hep C develop little to no symptoms for a long time – possibly 20-30 years! General symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Itching
  • Depression

There is a blood test available that can tell you if you are carrying the hepatitis C virus. For more information about this test, please visit the STI Testing section of our website.

CAN IT BE TREATED AND CURED?

About 15 – 40% of persons infected with hepatitis C are able to clear the virus on their own (i.e. they are cured) However, 60 – 80% of persons infected with the virus will develop a chronic hepatitis C infection. Chronic hepatitis C is usually for life, but sometimes persons are able to be successfully treated with antiviral medication. There are also ways to minimize the symptoms and damage to the liver.

There is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C.

IF IT ISN’T TREATED, CAN IT LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS PROBLEMS ?

Yes. Chronic infection of hepatitis C can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer. Therefore, it is highly recommended that persons who develop chronic hepatitis C have their liver function monitored regularly.

For more information about hepatitis, please visit www.hepatitisoutreach.com