Alternate Names : Non-A, Non-B Hepatitis
Hepatitis C is an infection and inflammation of the liver caused
by the hepatitis C virus. It is one of several types of hepatitis.
What is going on in the body?
The liver is an important organ located in the upper right quadrant
of the abdomen. It is responsible for:
filtering the blood
making bile, a substance that aids in digestion and helps rid the body of
processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later
making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and
vitamins A, B12,
D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also
iron and copper.
Infection of the liver by a virus can cause hepatitis, which is a term that
means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can interfere with normal liver
functions. The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through the blood. After
entering the bloodstream, the virus directly invades the liver cells. It
reproduces there and can kill liver cells directly. Many of the symptoms of the
disease, including liver inflammation, are caused by the body's immune system
reacting to infection with the virus.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Hepatitis C is found throughout the world. It is estimated that 100 million
people are infected. It is becoming less common as a result of screening of the blood
supply for hepatitis C antibodies in potential donors. It is also possible that the
availability of clean needles for illegal drug injection has helped reduce the
Hepatitis C may be spread by infected needles and through blood transfusions that were not screened for
transplants may contribute to the spread of hepatitis C. Sharing
contaminated personal hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and razors, may also
cause the spread of hepatitis C.
The risk and incidence of sexual transmission remain somewhat controversial.
Hepatitis C appears more difficult to transmit this way than AIDS or hepatitis B.
A male homosexual lifestyle is associated with a slightly higher risk of