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Hepatitis C

AMBULATORY CARE:

Hepatitis C

is inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Abdominal Organs

Signs and symptoms:

You may not have any signs or symptoms at first. Any of the following may develop if HCV damages your liver:

  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine or pale bowel movements
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) and itchy skin
  • Joint pain, body aches, or weakness
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
  • Pain in the upper right side of your abdomen

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You are too dizzy to stand up.
  • You vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • You feel confused or are very sleepy.
  • Your bowel movements are red or black, and sticky.

Call your doctor or hepatologist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.
  • Your abdomen or legs have a rash or are swollen.
  • You are bruising easily.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

What you need to know about hepatitis C screening:

Screening means you are tested for hepatitis C before you have signs or symptoms. This helps healthcare providers find and treat hepatitis C early. Screening is usually recommended 1 time for all adults who are 18 to 79 years of age. Screening may also be recommended during pregnancy to lower the risk for HCV being passed from mother to baby. Screening may start before age 18 or after 79 if your risk is high and continue regularly if your risk remains high.

Treatment:

Your body may clear a hepatitis C infection without treatment. An HCV infection that continues for longer than 6 months is considered chronic hepatitis. The goal of treatment is to prevent health problems hepatitis C can cause. Examples include cirrhosis and liver failure or cancer. You may need any of the following:

  • Antiviral medicines are used to cure a hepatitis C infection. You will need to take these medicines for 8 to 12 weeks. Other kinds of medicines may be used to keep the virus from spreading or to prevent or decrease liver damage. The type of medicine you need will depend on how severe your hepatitis is. It will also depend on if you have liver damage.
  • Surgery may be done to remove part of your liver. A liver transplant may be done if your liver stops working. Your diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy, donated liver.

Manage hepatitis C:

  • Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs can increase liver damage. Ask your healthcare provider for more information if you need help quitting.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage hepatitis C. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Get more rest. Slowly return to your normal activities when you feel better.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccines. You may need to get vaccines to protect you from hepatitis A or B. You may also need a pneumonia vaccine. Get the flu vaccine each year as soon as it is available. Ask your healthcare provider about other vaccines you need.

Prevent the spread of HCV:

No vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis C. The following can help prevent HCV from spreading to others:

  • Cover any open cuts or scratches. If blood from your wound gets on a surface, clean the surface with bleach right away. Throw away any items with blood or body fluids on them, as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Do not share personal items. These items include toothbrushes, nail clippers, and razors. Do not share needles.
  • Tell household members and sex partners that you have HCV. They should be tested for HCV. Do not have sex, including oral and anal sex, until your healthcare provider tells you it is okay. If you have sex, make sure the male partner wears a latex condom.
  • Protect your baby. It is okay to breastfeed your baby unless your nipples are cracked or bleeding. If you are pregnant, ask your healthcare provider for more information on keeping your baby from getting HCV. Medicines used to treat hepatitis C cannot be used during pregnancy.
  • Do not donate blood, body organs, semen, or other tissues. Donations are checked for HCV, but it is best not to donate.

Prevent the spread of germs:


  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
    Handwashing
  • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Stay away from others while you are sick. Avoid crowds as much as possible.

Follow up with your doctor or hepatologist as directed:

If you took medicine to treat hepatitis C, your blood will be checked for HCV 12 weeks later. You may need ongoing tests or treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Hepatitis C (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.