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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Hepatitis C
      Category : Health Centers > Digestive System

Hepatitis C

Alternate Names : Non-A, Non-B Hepatitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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 harmful substances
  • processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later use
  • making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
  • metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and amphetamines
  • storing vitamins A, B12, D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also stores 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 incidence.

    Hepatitis C may be spread by infected needles and through blood transfusions that were not screened for hepatitis. Some organ 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 hepatitis C.


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    Hepatitis C: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Thomas Fisher, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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