Hepatitis C is a viral liver infection. Most people get hepatitis C through contact with the blood of someone who is infected. Hepatitis is a leading cause of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver cancer.
Early diagnosis and treatment mean better outcomes. Over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be successfully treated with medication within a few months. More than half of those infected with the hepatitis C virus develop chronic liver infection.
To help with early diagnosis, the emergency departments at UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital and UK Good Samaritan Hospital offer hepatitis C screening to every patient over the age of 18 who comes in for treatment.
UK Digestive Health works closely with the UK Liver Transplant Program to provide comprehensive care. The program is nationally recognized by the United Network for Organ Sharing and the University Hospital Consortium for maintaining excellent outcomes.
- Acute hepatitis C. This short-term infection can last from a few weeks to six months.
- Chronic hepatitis C. Without treatment, this long-term infection can affect someone for his or her entire lifetime. Untreated chronic hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver damage, the need for a liver transplant or sometimes death.
Each individual may experience symptoms differently and some may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms may include:
- Dark yellow urine and/or light-colored stool
- Jaundice — yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vague stomach pain
Hepatitis C can’t be prevented with a vaccine. Instead, it’s important to reduce your risk of infection by lowering your exposure to blood that may be infected. You should:
- Avoid blood from open sores on someone with hepatitis C.
- Avoid sharing needles or other equipment, such as spoons, water or cotton, used for drug use. The UK Supportive Medication Assisted Recovery and Treatment (SMART) Program offers comprehensive help for individuals with substance use disorders.
- Avoid sharing personal items that could have been exposed to infected blood, including nail clippers, razors and toothbrushes.
- Ensure that needles and equipment used for tattoos, body piercing or acupuncture are sterilized.
- Use latex condoms during intercourse.
- Needle use or accidental exposure to needles. Hepatitis C can be passed by sharing needles or other paraphernalia while using injectable drugs; during piercing, tattoos or acupuncture with unsterilized equipment; or on the job as a healthcare worker.
- Blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992. Because donated blood and organs are now screened for hepatitis C, the risk of current-day transmission in this manner is low.
- Children of mothers with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can be passed from mother to baby in utero.
Pregnant Women and Babies
- Mothers with hepatitis C can transfer the virus to their babies.
- If a mom has hepatitis C, the chance of a child getting it from her is about 6 out of 100 (6%).
- Effective July 2018, all pregnant women in the state of Kentucky must be tested for hepatitis C at their first prenatal visit. Ask your provider about your results.
- Most babies with hepatitis C at birth have no symptoms and do well during childhood, but it is important for children to be tested in order to plan how to manage and treat it.
- If there is risk of exposure, babies should be tested at 2 months and 18 months of age by a pediatric infectious disease doctor.
- Blood test. A simple blood test is all that is needed to diagnose Hepatitis C.
Patients who were previously denied treatment by insurance companies may find that their treatment is now approved. The patient’s age, overall health, medical history and extent of the disease help providers determine which treatment option is best.
- Medications. With current medications, the hepatitis C virus can be cured in over 95% of cases. Medications can help the body eliminate the virus and slow liver damage.
- Liver transplant. If you have developed liver damage or liver cancer, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a transplant to replace your liver with a donated organ.
- A patient with hepatitis C will need treatment from a physician specializing in care of the condition.
- Patients will need routine blood work to help doctors understand how the patient’s liver is working.
- Patients with cirrhosis will need follow-up endoscopic screenings for a few years to ensure the condition doesn’t progress.
How do I prepare for my visit?
On the morning of your appointment, follow these instructions:
- Please do not eat or drink anything for three hours before your scheduled visit.
- If you must take medications, please take them with a small drink of water.
- Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.
- If you need to cancel or reschedule, call 859-323-0079