Hepatitis C is an infectious disease in which the liver becomes inflamed. It is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and can be spread through contact with infected blood; through unprotected sex; or by shared needles. It can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy.
There are two types of hepatitis C:
- Acute, short-term infection with symptoms lasting up to 6 months
- Chronic, long-lasting infection, which happens when your body is unable to get rid of the infection
When to Get Help for Hepatitis C
It is very common to become infected with hepatitis C but not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they will appear within 6 to 12 weeks after you are exposed to the virus. Symptoms may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellowish eye or skin tone)
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
The longer hepatitis C goes untreated, the more damage it causes to your liver. Eventually, it may lead to liver cancer or liver failure. Speak with your primary care doctor about being tested if you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C or if you are in one of these high-risk groups:
- Your mother had hepatitis C at the time you were born
- You've had contact with blood or needles at work
- You've had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months
- You are a man who has had sex with another man
- You have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- You are on kidney dialysis
- You are HIV positive
- You have injected illegal drugs or have shared needles
- You have tattoos or body piercings
- You work or live in a prison
- You had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- You have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- You are an adult age 45 to 65
Treatment for Hepatitis C at Rush
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you will need to see a hepatologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating liver, pancreas and gall bladder disorders. Treatment options for hepatitis C may include the following:
- Antiviral medications to clear the virus from your body. Our experts will determine which medications to prescribe you and the length of your treatment.
- Cirrhosis management. If you have hepatitis C-related cirrhosis, our experts can help you manage your condition.
Rush Excellence in Hepatitis C Care
- Quick and convenient access: We understand that you don't want to wait to see a liver specialist. Our doctors can often see you within a week of your request so you can begin treatment sooner.
- Liver transplant outcomes: Our liver transplant program has some of the best survival rates of any hospital in Chicago and in Illinois. Our one-year patient survival rate for liver transplants is 94%, according to the most recent Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) report.
- Access to the latest research: Our experts are actively engaged in research aimed at improving hepatitis C treatment. This means you have early access to new treatments through clinical trials and the ability to play a more active role in your health care.