Hepatitis C

What is it?

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection affecting the liver, a vital organ of the body.

The are many ways to catch hepatitis C. It's possible to catch it through having unprotected sex.

How do I catch it?

The most common way to catch hepatitis C is by sharing contaminated needles, spoons, and filters to inject drugs.

There are other rare causes as well, such as sexual transmission, transmission from mother to child, or any surgical procedures abroad where sterilization of instruments is not optimal.

It is not caught by normal social contact, such as hugging, kissing, sharing kitchen utensils, or from a toilet seat.

Symptoms

Many people do not experience any symptoms when they first become infected with hepatitis C.

Some people may have vague flu-like symptoms including tiredness, loss of appetite, joint pains and nausea some weeks after being infected.

Some infected people remain well throughout their lives and develop no problems to their liver.

However, other people can develop longstanding (chronic) hepatitis C infection and have symptoms of liver damage, such as jaundice (yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine), ongoing tiredness, nausea, vomiting or unexplained weight loss. Without treatment this will eventually lead to liver failure, which is life-threatening.

Testing

Hepatitis C is diagnosed by a blood test. The results are usually available within two weeks.

Treatment

If you are found to have hepatitis C you will be referred to a liver specialist. There are increasingly effective treatments available, and in many people the virus can be cleared, i.e. the infection cured. It is important to detect the virus before it does any damage to the liver.

It's possible to catch hepatitis C by having unprotected sex with an infected person.

How to avoid STIs

See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

View FPA leaflets