Hepatitis C: Facts, Symptoms and Treatment - By Dr. Santa Nandi

Dr. Santa Nandi Gastroenterologist Hicksville, New York

Dr. Santa Nandi is a gastroenterologist practicing in Hicksville, New York. Dr. Nandi specializes in the digestive system and its diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract, which include organs from the mouth to the anus as well as liver disorders. Gastroenterology includes conditions such as hepatitis, peptic ulcer... more

Hepatitis C is an infection in the liver that causes inflammation. It’s caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is spread through contaminated blood and body fluids from infected persons. There are approximately 3.9 million people in the United States with a diagnosis of hepatitis C, but there are also a large number of folks out there who do not know that they have the disease.

Many patients with hepatitis C experience no symptoms. Initial symptoms are often extra hepatic and may involve organs other than the liver like joints, muscles or skin. They can also experience a flu like condition at the onset but mostly they’re asymptotic. Symptoms like jaundice or yellow discoloration of skin and eyes, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, and nausea are more specific for liver involvement. When the disease has advanced and caused hepatic decompensation we can find symptoms of gastrointestinal bleed, fluid retention with abdominal swelling and ankle edema, and disorientation or change in mental status.

Patients can contract hepatitis C from using IV drugs and infected needles, from having unprotected sex,and from being exposed to contaminated blood products. Infants can contract hepatitis C from their infected mothers.

Hepatitis C is diagnosed with a blood test. It’s recommended to get tested if you have any symptoms of liver disease, if you  have HIV, have used shared needles, have been on kidney dialysis for a long period of time, or had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious and often fatal conditions, like chronic hepatitis C, scarring or cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

Treatment of hepatitis C has evolved rapidly in the past few years. It is typically treated with antiviral medications, and we now have newer medications can get rid of the virus and cure the disease.

Hepatitis C has now become a curable disease although a vaccine does not exist. It is important to know that there are several things you can do to prevent hepatitis C. Do not share any needles or syringes, do not share personal items, remember to use condoms during sexual intercourse, and be extra careful when getting tattoos, piercings, manicures or pedicures.