Living with a chronic disease like hepatitis C can be depressing and nerve-wracking. It can also interfere with your relationships.
"People with hepatitis C experience a lot of stigma," says Alan Franciscus, executive director of the Hepatitis C Support Project in San Francisco. "It can be really hard."
You may avoid talking to friends or family about the disease because you're worried about how they'll react. You may feel a temptation to pull away from people you care about rather than risk them...
Most people catch the hep C virus when blood from someone who has it gets into their body. This can happen if you share needles to use drugs, or get stuck by one because you work in a hospital or doctor's office. People born to a mother who has it will probably get it, too.
You can also get it from having sex with someone who has the virus. Your chances go up if you have a sexually transmitted disease, several partners, or take part in sex that's rough enough to cause bleeding.
Since July 1992, all blood and organ donations in the U.S. are tested for the hepatitis C virus. The CDC says the number of infections dropped by 90%, partially as a result of those screening tests.
What Are the Symptoms?
You can have the disease and not have symptoms for years. You may not find out you have it until your doctor does a blood test for some other reason and notices a problem with your liver enzymes. If you have chronic hepatitis C, your may notice: