Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In Hepatitis C, the inflammation is caused by the hepatitis C virus. This type of hepatitis is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person. up to 85 percent of people exposed to this virus develop chronic liver disease.
most at risk of this infection are:
* people who were treated for clotting problems with a blood product made before 1987 when, more advanced methods of manufacturing these products were developed
* people who were notified that they received blood from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C
* people who received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant before July 1992 when better testing of blood donors became available
* long-term hemodialysis patients
* people who have already have symptoms of liver disease such as an abnormal liver enzyme tests
* healthcare workers who have been exposed to Hepatitis C-infected blood on the job, such as through an accidental needle stick
* children born to women with the virus
* people who ever injected illegal drugs, even if it was just once or it happened many years ago
* people who had sexual contact with an infected person, or shared items such as razor blades that could have come in contact with the blood of an infected person
If someone tests positive for Hepatitis C, the next step is to measure the level of ALT (alanine aminotransferase, a liver enzyme) in the blood. A high level indicates liver inflammation, and the potential for chronic hepatitis. Treatment options for certain cases can include medications, such as interferon and ribavirin. If hepatitis C has caused extensive damage to the liver, a patient may eventually need a liver transplant.
Hepatitis C appears to be a slowly progressive disease that may gradually advance over 10-40 years. Among the factors that may influence its rate of progression are diet and lifestyle. Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to infected blood, recently or in the past, should contact their doctor.