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Understanding Hepatitis C -- Diagnosis and Treatment

How Do I Know If I Have Hepatitis C?

Because hepatitis C doesn't always cause symptoms, you may not know you have the virus. Your doctor won't check for hepatitis C unless you think you have had contact with a person who is infected or if you were born between 1945 and 1965. If you think you may have hepatitis C, you can get a blood test. 

The CDC recommends that you have a blood test for hepatitis C if any of the following are true:

  • You received blood from a donor who later was found to have the disease.
  • You have ever injected drugs.
  • You received a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992.
  • You received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987.
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965.
  • You have had long-term kidney dialysis.
  • You have HIV.
  • You were born to a mother with hepatitis C.

If you have hepatitis C, your doctor may also do a liver biopsy. A liver biopsy is done by inserting a needle into the liver and taking out a piece of tissue, which is then sent to a lab to be tested.

What Are the Treatments for Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C treatments are changing quickly. Until recently, the most common treatment for hepatitis C was a blend of shots and pills that usually came with some unpleasant side effects. It typically combined a shot of interferon or pegylated interferon with the pills ribavirin and either Incivek (telaprevir) or Victrelis (boceprevir).

But the newer drugs Olysio (simeprevir) and Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) cure more people in less time with fewer side effects. The drugs are taken together with interferon and ribavirin. Doctors hope that soon more people will be able to stop taking interferon, the treatment that causes so many side effects.

If you have hepatitis C, avoid alcohol and medications that may put added strain on your liver. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. 

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on June 19, 2014
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