Hepatitis C is a liver infection in which the hepatitis C virus causes the liver to become inflamed. Like hepatitis B, It is often transmitted by contaminated needles or sexual contact. In addition, people who received blood transfusions before 1992 may be infected with Hepatitis C because there was no screening for Hepatitis C prior to 1992.
As is the case with hepatitis B, many people with hepatitis C do not know they have it. During the first six months after exposure (acute phase), some people may experience fatigue, decreased appetite, itching, vague abdominal pain, or flu like symptoms, but many people do not have any symptoms.
After six months, the disease is considered chronic hepatitis C. People with chronic hepatitis C also may be without symptoms, which is why the disease is often picked up accidentally during routine blood tests given for other reasons. Chronic hepatitis C is a risk factor for both cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Patients who believe they may have hepatitis C, or may have been exposed to it, should contact their primary care doctor and schedule an appointment. A referral to a hepatologist for further testing and treatment options should be considered as well.
New York Methodist Hospital is one of the few medical centers in Brooklyn participating in the administration of two new breakthough medications recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of hepatitis C . Regular monitoring of blood samples, as well as ultrasound examinations and, in some cases, liver biopsies, enable physicians to maximize treatment and minimize any possible side effects.
To contact the Division of Gastroenterology, call 718.780.3851.