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Get the Facts About Hep C

What is Hepatitis C?  

What is Hepatitis C, and how much do you know about it? You’ve probably heard a few things in passing: it’s an infectious disease, it affects your liver, and you can get it by sharing needles during intravenous drug use. While these facts are true, they’re also reductive, and not necessarily helpful when Hep C begins to affect your life in a personal way.

At HepCMyWay, we think everyone could stand to be a little more educated about Hepatitis C. Whether you’re at risk for infection, you think you may be infected, or someone you love has been diagnosed, knowing the facts is the first step toward getting tested, and ultimately receiving the treatment you need to get Hep C out of your life for good. 

When you’re ready to take the next step, HepCMyWay will be here for you. We offer accessible Hep C treatment in the safety and comfort of your home, as well as telemedicine support from a real doctor who is competent and experienced treating patients of all backgrounds and identities.

It’s time to talk about Hep C -- but more than that, it’s time to take action and get HepCMyWay. 

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HepC in the Body

Knowing the Signs of Hepatitis C

Common Hep C Symptoms 

As previously stated, Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver, causing chronic inflammation that can kill your cells and result in severe scarring. Over time, this will make it impossible for your liver to fulfill its essential function, causing a multitude of problems throughout your body. About 3.5 million people in the United States are living with Hep C, and because it can be asymptomatic (present no symptoms), most of these people don’t know they’re infected.

Two of the most important facts to remember about Hep C are:

  • There is NO vaccine for Hep C. There’s no easy solution for protecting yourself against Hep C (yet). The only way to be sure you don’t have it is by getting tested.
  • If you have Hep C, you CAN BE CURED. If you test positive for Hep C, there is antiviral medication available for you that can clear the infection from your body completely.

While Hep C is frequently asymptomatic until it’s taken a severe toll on your body over time, there are some early symptoms of Hep C that can raise a red flag if you’re experiencing them.

Some of these common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue, feeling tired all the time
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes -- a condition known as jaundice
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in your abdominal area (belly)
  • Dark urine
  • Gray-colored bowel movements
  • Pain in your joints

These Hepatitis C symptoms in men, women and people of other genders are the same, and the infection affects all bodies the same way.

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Risk Factors for Hepatitis C

Scientifically speaking, the only way to acquire or transmit Hep C is through blood-to-blood contact with infected blood -- that means that infected blood somehow has to make its way into your blood. 

We’ve discussed a few commonly-understood methods of Hep C transmission, including sharing needles, but here are a few other ways you may become at risk for Hep C:

  • Sharing snorting devices (bills, straws, etc.)
  • Getting tattoos or body piercings with unsterile tools
  • Being born to a mother who has Hep C
  • Having sex with someone who has Hep C
  • Sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail files or other personal care items with a person who has Hep C

Because information about the transmission of Hep C was previously minimal, an older population carries additional risks, including: 

  • Having surgery before 1992 that may have required you getting blood
  • Getting a blood transfusion before 1992
  • Getting an organ transplant before 1992
  • Having dialysis before 1992
  • Being in the military around the time of the Vietnam War or Korean War
  • Having been born between the years of 1945-1965

It’s also important to remember that Hep C can live outside the body for over 3 weeks at room temperature. This means that even if a Hep C-infected person’s blood was on an object 3 weeks before you made blood-contact with it, you could still be infected.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can happen if Hep C goes untreated?

If Hep C is left untreated, the infection will most likely remain in your body, and all of the previously-mentioned symptoms can become signs of Hep C flare ups throughout your life.

Even if you are asymptomatic, Hep C is constantly wearing your body down, ultimately causing the following long-term effects:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver, in which your liver scars over and becomes hard
  • Liver cancer, also known as Hepatocellular Carcinoma - HCC)
  • Liver failure

At a certain stage, you may even require a liver transplant to continue your life. This is why Hep C testing is so vital -- once we determine that you have Hep C, we can begin Hep C treatment medications as soon as possible to avoid these long-term effects.

Is Hep C curable?

Yes! If you have a known Hep C diagnosis, HepCMyWay can help you begin a round of Hepatitis C treatment medications that can clear the infection from your body. 

How do I get my Hep C test?

If you’re in Western Pennsylvania, Central Outreach Wellness Center provides FREE rapid Hepatitis C testing to those who need it. If you’re elsewhere in the United States, reach out to your primary care provider or local health department and schedule your test as soon as possible.