What is hepatitis C?
‘Hepatitis’ is a general term for inflammation or swelling of the liver. ‘Hepatitis C’, also known as ‘hep C’, is inflammation of the liver that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus.
The liver is one of the body’s most important organs, performing many vital functions which are essential to good health.
Most people who live with hep C have no symptoms and are not aware that they are infected, so over many years, the virus can cause damage to the liver which can lead to serious health problems.
Possible progression of liver damage
Most people do not have any symptoms and are unaware they are infected with Hep C
How do I know if I have Hep C?
The hepatitis C virus is highly contagious and is spread when even a small amount of infected blood from someone with hepatitis C comes into contact with your blood.
Infection can occur if you’ve been tattooed or had a body piercing with contaminated equipment or ink, if you had a blood transfusion in New Zealand before 1992, or if you’ve shared needles for injecting drugs – even once.
Hep C can be transmitted in many other ways and it’s common for people not to have any symptoms.
If symptoms do appear, they can be mild and vague, including tiredness and fatigue, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain.
We’ve put together a checklist of risk factors and symptoms to help you to assess whether you should get tested for hep C.
Why get tested?
The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested. It takes one or two blood tests to find out.
Getting diagnosed and treated early can help reduce your chance of serious liver damage and other health problems that may be caused by the virus and keep it from spreading to someone else by blood contact.
If you think you should be tested, see your doctor so you can know for sure and discuss possible treatment.
Diagnosed with Hepatitis C
If you have been diagnosed with hep C, taking care of your overall health, including your liver health, is important while you’re working with your doctor on treatment.
It is also important to know how you can prevent the transmission of the hep C virus to another person, as well as knowing how it is NOT spread.
- Eat right
- Reduce or avoid alcohol
- Reduce any cannabis use
- Lose weight if overweight
Hep C treatment options
Treatments have advanced considerably and most people living with hep C now have the chance to be cured of the virus.
You are considered cured when no hep C virus is found in a blood test taken 3 months after treatment has finished.
As with all treatments there may be side effects. Your doctor will advise what’s best for you.