Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. There are many kinds of hepatitis. Some can be spread. Others are not. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) does spread. It can lead to lifelong liver disease. This includes chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Most people notice no problems until they develop liver disease years later. Symptoms include the following:
- Flulike problems (fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sore muscles and joints)
- Tenderness in the upper right abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing skin)
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Dark urine
Prevent the Spread
No vaccine can prevent the spread of HCV and hepatitis C. It's up to you to keep others safe.
- Cover all skin breaks and sores yourself. If you need help, the person treating you should wear latex gloves.
- Use condoms during sex, especially with a new partner.
- Don't donate blood, plasma, body organs, other body tissue, or sperm.
- Don't share needles.
- Don't share razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools, or other personal items.
How HCV Spreads
HCV spreads through exposure to an infected person's blood. This is most likely to occur if:
- You used an infected needle (IV drug needles, tattoos, acupuncture needles, and body piercing)
- You had a needlestick injury in the hospital
- You shared personal care items such as razors
- You had sex without a condom with an infected person (a less common cause)
- You had a blood transfusion several years ago (blood is now screened for HCV)
Many people do not know how they were exposed to HCV.