The causes of hepatitis C aren't plural, rather singular. Hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, is caused by one of six viruses, each named for a letter in the alphabet. But all types of hepatitis, regardless of which virus causes them, significantly interfere with the liver's ability to function optimally.
Hepatitis C is a virus that lives in liver cells. It causes inflammation and impedes basic liver function. Symptoms of hepatitis C can show up within a few months after infection, or can take decades to surface. Over time the virus can cause scar tissue to build up in the organ and result in liver failure. It can also lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis C Transmission
Hepatitis C, also known as HVC, is usually contracted from contact with infected blood. The most common cause for this type of infection is sharing needles for illegal drug use. However, any type of needle sharing carries the risk of a HVC infection, including tattoos or piercing. Sharing any type of object that can contain blood, such as a razor or toothbrush, also carries a risk of HVC infection.
While rare, it is possible for a baby to contract the hepatitis C virus from an infected mother during childbirth. Having unprotected sex also carries the risk of infection. Organ transplants and blood transfusions done before 1992 could cause a hepatitis C infection. After 1992, however, many tests were put in place to prevent this type of virus transmission.
Hepatitis C Diagnosis
If you are at a high risk for hepatitis C, or suspect you may have become infected with the disease, your doctor will usually order blood tests. These tests will determine if you are infected and how much of the virus is contained in your system. If you do test positive for hepatitis C, your doctor may also order a liver biopsy to check for damage.
Hepatitis C Treatment
Hepatitis C has no vaccine and no cure. If symptoms do develop, doctors usually recommend a regiment of antiviral medications. Though these medications can help calm the symptoms, they cannot guarantee lasting results. It is highly likely that you will have to go on and off the medications as needed for the rest of your life.