Chronic Hepatitis C
Approximately 80 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C have no symptoms of the disease -- even after many years. You can look and feel perfectly healthy, yet still be infected and infect others. Most people do not have symptoms until there is already cirrhosis, or even liver failure.
If a person does have chronic hepatitis C symptoms, they may:
- Feel tired
- Feel sick to their stomach
- Not feel like eating
- Have a fever
- Have stomach pain
- Experience a dull pain or feeling of heaviness on the right side.
In addition, people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus may also have dark urine or yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice (see Hepatitis C Pictures).
In order to make a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions and perform a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms. If he or she suspects a liver problem, certain tests or procedures may be recommended.
(Click Hepatitis C Test for more information about the tests used to make a diagnosis.)
Chronic hepatitis C is a condition that can lead to more liver damage over time. However, everyone's situation is a little different. So before treatment is recommended, your healthcare provider will review the results of your blood work and other tests to find out several things, including:
- The amount of virus in your body (see Hepatitis C Viral Load)
- Its genotype
- How much liver damage has already happened
- Any other medical conditions you may have.
Then together, you and your healthcare provider can decide what treatment, if any, is best for you.
If treatment for chronic hepatitis C is recommended, it usually involves one of two medications: peginterferon and ribavirin. Peginterferon, which is sold under the brand names of PEGASYS® or Peg-Intron®, can be used by itself or with ribavirin (COPEGUS®, Rebetol®). Using these drugs together is called combination therapy. Peginterferon is given by injection once a week, and ribavirin is a pill taken twice daily.
The goal of hepatitis C treatment medications is to get rid of the virus completely.