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Hepatitis C

Signs, symptoms, treatment

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that can be mild or severe. There are over 210,000 people chronically infected with hepatitis C in the UK.

The symptoms of the acute phase are usually mild and similar to the flu, including feeling sick, vomiting, and feeling generally unwell. This often means that many cases are not diagnosed. In some cases the body will clear the virus on its own, anywhere from 2 to 6 months after contraction. In the rest of the cases, chronic hepatitis C is developed.

Even with no symptoms, hepatitis C can cause serious damage to your liver resulting to cirrhosis or even liver cancer.

How can I manage my hepatitis C?

Cutting out or limiting alcohol intake can decrease the damaging effects of hepatitis on your liver. Other potentially helpful factors include weight control (with a healthy diet and regular exercise), quitting smoking, and vaccinating against hepatitis A and B. All of these measures will help to protect your liver.

How can I reduce the risk of passing hepatitis C on to others?

You can reduce the risk of passing hepatitis C by:

  • Not sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors
  • Not sharing needles, syringes, or other injecting equipment with others
  • Not donating blood
  • Keeping cuts and grazes clean and covered with a dressing
  • Using household bleach to clean any blood from surfaces
  • Safe sex practices, with special care regarding anal sex or during menstruation (due to the presence of blood)”

Causes

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, which means that it is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact. The virus is highly infectious, and is also present in other body fluids, so these can be a source of infection, particularly if they have been contaminated with infected blood. Even a tiny amount of blood from an infected person can transmit the virus, if it gets into your bloodstream. The virus can live for up to two weeks outside the body in dried blood, also, which means that sharing a razor or toothbrush with an infected person can put you at risk.

Some of the ways in which blood can be transferred include:

  • Sharing unsterilised needles or other injecting equipment
  • Blood transfusions in a country where hepatitis C is common
  • Sharing razors
  • Sharing toothbrushes
  • Sharing unsterilised tattoo needles

What to do next

Our team can help you with questions or concerns relating to Hepatitis C, whether you already have the condition, are concerned about possible exposure, or would like to get vaccinated. We are available six days a week. Give us a call or use our online booking system to make an appointment.

FAQ

How is hepatitis C treated?

Treatment is available, but carries significant side effects. Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines (such as ribavirin and interferon), and treatment is successful in half of those infected, but it is not always curable. The sooner you are tested the better the prognosis. If you are concerned about being exposed to hepatitis C, do not delay your test.

Are drug users more at risk of contracting Hepatitis C?

The drug-injecting population in England has a particularly high incidence of hepatitis C, with up to 49% of users thought to be affected. It can affect those who have only ever injected a drug once, as much as regular users.

Can I get Hepatitis C through sexual contact?

Yes, although it is very rare for hepatitis C to be transmitted through sex. The risk may be higher among men who have sex with men. It is always advisable to wearing a condom with a new partner.

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Hepatitis C

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Please note that Walk In Clinic is a private medical centre and not an NHS service.