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Understanding Hepatitis C (HCV)

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can be caused by many things, such as alcohol or certain viruses. Hepatitis C is one virus which can cause hepatitis and can become a lifelong viral infection. In some people with hepatitis C, after many years of inflammation, they can develop liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms at all and never will. Some people eventually have liver damage which causes the liver to stop working, and then they do have symptoms. These symptoms could include the following:

  • Fatigue, nausea, low energy

  • Pain in the upper right abdomen

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and/or eyes)

  • Swelling in the abdomen

  • Itching

  • Dark urine

How HCV Spreads

HCV spreads through exposure to an infected person’s blood. This is most likely to occur if:

  • You used an infected needle (IV drug needles, tattoos, acupuncture needles, and body piercing needles)

  • You had a needlestick injury in the hospital

  • You shared personal care items such as razors with an individual with HCV

  • You had sex without a condom with an infected person 

  • You had a blood transfusion decades ago (blood is now screened for HCV)

  • You came into contact with blood that may have been infected, as a healthcare worker or in the military

Many people don't know how they were exposed to HCV.

The CDC now recommends HCV testing for all adults ages 18-79.

Prevent the Spread

No vaccine can prevent the spread of HCV. It’s up to you to keep yourself and others safe.


  • Get tested for hepatitis C if you don’t know whether you are infected or not.

  • Cover all skin breaks and open sores.

  • Use latex gloves if you are in contact with someone else’s blood or body fluids.

  • Know your sexual partner. If you have a new partner, use condoms to avoid hepatitis C and other infections which can be passed through sex.


  • Don’t share sharp instruments with others, such as toothpicks, razors, manicure equipment, or tattoo equipment.

  • Don’t donate blood, plasma, body organs, other body tissue, or sperm.

  • Don’t use or share needles; don’t share straws used in the nose

  • Don’t share items which could contain blood, such as toothbrushes.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 8/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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