Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver caused by the Hepatitis C virus. This infection differs from the other four forms of Hepatitis including A and B. Hepatitis C in the United States is primarily transmitted via exposure to infected blood via injection drug use (IDU). There are other ways the virus can be transmitted including sexual contact, although these risks are estimated to be some degree lower than IDU. There is a strong link between HIV infections that result from injection drug use and Hepatitis C. We encourage anyone who may be at risk of exposure to HIV from injection drug use to also be screened for Hepatitis C. Although they may sound similar, the different types of Hepatitis A, B, C, etc. are transmitted and affect the body in very different ways. If left untreated, Hepatitis C can cause serious harm to the liver including cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver cancer. It is recommended that all individuals receive a Hepatitis C screening at least once in their life with a particular focus for the “baby boom” generation (those born between 1946-1964).
Recent advancements in medicine have given rise to cures for some of the most common strains of Hepatitis C. For the first time, Hepatitis C is no longer a chronic infection that will stay with you for the duration of your life. The life altering positive impact of these new treatments for those infected with Hepatitis C cannot be overstated. Please note there are some important things to keep in mind in regards to current cures for Hepatitis C. First, curative Hepatitis C treatments are currently very expensive. Over time, we expect the costs for treatment to fall, and as they do clinical guidelines will reflect the greater accessibility for curative treatments. You may also be surprised to learn that after an individual successfully completes treatment and is cured of the Hepatitis C virus, it is possible to become re-infected with Hepatitis C virus. Changing risk behaviors and lifestyle modifications may also be advised to prevent re-infection for those individuals who have successfully been cured of Hepatitis C.
For more information about Hepatitis C, visit the Hepatitis Education Project.
You can also find more information about Hepatitis C from the CDC here.