Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Hepatitis C

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Hepatitis C

(HCV; Hep C)


Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver. It can cause serious liver damage if it is not treated.


http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=24872487si1254.jpgHepatitisNULLjpgHepatitisNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si1254.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.17NULL2002-10-01255391Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Hepatitis C is caused by a virus. The virus can be spread:

  • Through contact with the blood of an infected person
  • Through IV drug use
  • To a baby during birth by a mother who has the infection

The hepatitis C virus is not spread through food or water.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Injecting illegal drugs, especially with shared needles
  • Receiving a blood transfusion before 1992—this risk is low in the United States (current testing prevents this today)
  • Receiving blood clotting products before 1987 (current testing prevents this today)
  • Receiving an HCV-infected organ transplant
  • Long-term kidney dialysis treatment
  • Sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, or other personal hygiene items that have HCV-infected blood on them
  • Tattooing
  • Body piercing
  • Having sex with partners who have hepatitis C

Things that may raise the risk of this problem in healthcare workers are:

  • Being accidentally stuck by an HCV-infected needle
  • Frequent contact with HCV-infected people


Some people may not have symptoms. Others may have:

  • No energy
  • Lack of hunger
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Darker colored urine
  • Loose stools and light or chalky colored stools
  • Belly pain
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect the diagnosis.

Blood tests will be done to confirm hepatitis by looking for:

  • Signs of the virus
  • Antibodies—signs that the immune system is fighting an infection
  • Changes in liver function

The diagnosis may may be made as part of a routine screening test during a regular exam.


In some people, the infection may go away on its own. If the infection does not pass, the goal of treatment is to:

  • Prevent further liver damage by not drinking alcohol, not smoking, and avoiding certain medicines like acetaminophen
  • Cure the infection with antiviral medicine


To lower the risk of this infection:

  • Do not inject illegal drugs. Those who do should not share needles.
  • Do not have sex with partners who have the hepatitis C infection.
  • Practice safe sex. Use latex condoms .
  • Limit sex partners.
  • Do not share personal items that might have blood on them.




  • Acute hepatitis C infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-hepatitis-c-infection.
  • Bhattacharya D, Aronsohn A, et al; AASLD-IDSA HCV Guidance Panel. Hepatitis C Guidance 2023 Update: AASLD-IDSA Recommendations for Testing, Managing, and Treating Hepatitis C Virus Infection. Clin Infect Dis. 2023 May 25:ciad319.
  • Chronic hepatitis C infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-hepatitis-c-infection.
  • STI treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/default.htm.
  • Viral hepatitis—hepatitis C information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.