Living with Hepatitis C
Find Hepatitis C Testing and Medical Care in NYC
Your liver is an organ about the size of a football, located under the right side of your rib cage. You can’t see or feel your liver, but it performs some of your body’s most important jobs, including
acting as a:
- Filter: Cleansing dangerous toxins from your body
- Factory: Changing nutrients from food into fuel that helps “power” you
An unhealthy liver can cause many health problems.
One of the most common liver health problems is hepatitis, which means: inflammation of the liver. If you have hepatitis for a longtime, your liver can develop serious problems, such as:
- Scars: dead liver cells
- Fibrosis: tough bands of fibrous tissue in your liver
- Cirrhosis: advanced scarring and fibrosis, which can cause your liver to harden, shrink and eventually shut down
- Liver Cancer: tumors in the liver.
What causes hepatitis?
The most common types of hepatitis are caused by viruses. fatty liver, and excessive alcohol.
Are there signs or symptoms of hepatitis?
There are often no signs or symptoms of hepatitis until your liver is seriously damaged.
If you do have signs or symptoms, they may be:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Fatigue or trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite, nausea or weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes)
- Dark urine or light colored stools
- Pain or swelling in the liver area (under the right rib)
Can I have more than one type of hepatitis?
Yes – having two or more types of hepatitis increases your risk of developing serious liver damage.
What are the health risks of severe liver damage?
If your liver is seriously damaged, you are at increased risk for many health problems.
The most common are:
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Enlarged veins in the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat and stomach) that may cause severe bleeding
- Confusion, trouble concentrating, mental health issues or coma
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
Severe liver damage can even lead to death.
Cirrhosis of the Liver
Cirrhosis is a term that is used to describe severe damage or scarring of the liver which leads to poor liver function and serious health risks including liver failure and death. It is the final phase of chronic liver disease.
People with cirrhosis are at increased risk for developing liver cancer. Liver cancer can be effectively treated if found early. People with cirrhosis should be screened for liver cancer every six (6) months.
If I have a new Hepatitis C infection, what should you do?
- Find medical care as soon as possible if you were recently infected with Hepatitis C. If you treat the infection in the first few months, you lower your chances of developing chronic or lifelong infection.
If I have chronic Hepatitis C, what should I do?
- Get into medical care as soon as possible and see your doctor regularly, even if you do not feel sick.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. It is safest not to drink alcohol at all.
- Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Always speak to your doctor before taking any vitamins, supplements, herbal medicines, home remedies or over the counter medication. Some can be harmful to your liver.
- Make sure you have been vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B in order to prevent further damage to the liver. Talk to your doctor, find hepatitis services in your borough, or drop by one of the Health Department's Walk-in Clinics.
Is there treatment for Hepatitis C?
- Yes - Hep C can be treated and cured. Treatment is more effective, shorter and has fewer side effects than in the past. Most people with Hep C can be cured by taking antiviral medication for several months. Being cured means that no virus is found in the blood a few months after finishing treatment. Talk to your doctor about Hep C treatment. Find Treatment
How can I prevent passing Hep C along to others?
- Make sure that others do not come into contact with your blood.
- Do not let others use your medical or injection supplies, such as needles, syringes, or diabetic finger-prick tests.
- Practice safer sex by using condoms.
- Cover cuts, sores, tears in the skin.
- Do not share personal items that may have traces of your blood, such as toothbrushes, razors, hair clippers or sex toys.
Where can I find support?
Living with Hep C can be confusing and stressful. If you need information or support, it may be helpful to meet with other people living with Hep C. There are Hep C support groups throughout New York City, as well as online support groups.
More Hepatitis Info