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Hepatitis C - What is hepatitis C?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

Hepatitis C is an infection that can harm your liver. It is caused by a virus that is carried in blood. You can catch it if blood from an infected person gets into your body. You may not know you have hepatitis C because there often aren't any symptoms.

If there's a chance that you may have hepatitis C, you can have a blood test to find out. And if you're infected, there are treatments that may help you get rid of the virus.

We've brought together the best research about hepatitis C and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Hepatitis C is an infection that can harm your liver. It is caused by a virus that is carried in blood. You can catch it if blood from an infected person gets into your body. You may not know you have hepatitis C because there often aren't any symptoms.

Some people with hepatitis C stay healthy all their life. But some people's liver gets badly damaged by the infection. Unfortunately, there isn't any way to tell what will happen to you. But there are treatments that may get rid of the virus. Getting rid of the virus makes it less likely that you will get liver damage.

Key points for people with hepatitis C

  • You can become infected by the hepatitis C virus if blood from a person with hepatitis C gets into your body.[1]

  • You are most likely to get hepatitis C if you share, or have shared, needles to inject illegal drugs, such as heroin.[2][3] But you can get it in other ways too.

  • The only way to find out for certain if you are infected is to have a blood test. For more information, see Should I be tested for hepatitis C?

  • You may not get any symptoms from hepatitis C. But if the virus stays in your body for a long time, you may get serious liver damage.[3]

  • You can take treatments that may get rid of the virus. But the treatments don't work for everyone and they have unpleasant side effects.

  • If you have hepatitis C, you can do some things that make it more likely you'll stay well, such as drinking less alcohol and eating healthy foods.

What does my liver do?

To understand what can happen when you get hepatitis C, it helps to know a bit about what your liver does.

hepatitis-c_default.jpgYour liver is just under your ribs, on the right side of your body. It weighs about 2 kilograms (about 4 pounds). That makes it one of the biggest organs in your body.[8]

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Last Updated: February 17, 2011
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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