Hepatitis C, or HCV, is a viral infection that damages the liver and can cause cirrhosis, liver failure and cancer.

HCV can be acute or chronic:

  • Acute hepatitis C is a short-term infection, with variable duration and severity of symptoms. Sometimes your body can fight off the infection. Usually, an acute infection leads to chronic infection.
  • Chronic hepatitis C is a long-lasting infection. Left untreated it can be a serious lifelong condition that can result in liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and death.

At the University of Maryland Medical Center, our liver disease specialists will work with you to develop a plan to treat your Hepatitis C.

How Hepatitis C Spreads

Hepatitis C spreads through contact with the blood of someone with HCV. People can come in contact with HCV-infected blood by:

  • Sharing needles for drug injection – the most common way HCV spreads in the U.S.
  • Accidental sticks with an infected needle, often in healthcare settings
  • Getting tattooed or pierced with unsterilized tools or inks
  • Sharing personal care items like razors or toothbrushes
  • Transmission from mother to child at birth
  • Having unprotected sex

Other people at risk for hepatitis C are those who:

  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Received hemophilia clotting factor before 1987
  • Are on kidney dialysis
  • Worked or lived in a prison
  • Have HIV/AIDS
  • Have had a sexually transmitted disease

People born between 1945 and 1965 make up approximately 75% of people living with hepatitis C. Most are believed to have become infected in the 1960s through the 1980s when transmission of hepatitis C was highest. All adults born from 1945–1965 should be tested for HCV.

Hepatitis C Symptoms

People with hepatitis C often have no symptoms until the advanced stages, which can be decades later, and include:

  • Dark-yellow urine
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Gray- or clay-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice – yellowish eyes and skin

Hepatitis C Diagnosis

Untreated HCV can result in cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent these complications.

Our team will review your medical and family history, do a physical exam and diagnostic tests that may include:

  • Blood tests to evaluate your liver function and check for anemia and internal bleeding or conditions like cirrhosis.
  • Ultrasound imaging that uses sound waves to show your liver’s condition, including the shape, size and texture.
  • Transient elastography defines the 'elasticity' of the liver and shows the extent of scarring/stiffness of the liver.
  • Liver biopsy that evaluates a small sample of liver tissue. Biopsy results can show the extent of scarring and confirm a cirrhosis diagnosis or cancer.

Hepatitis C Treatments

You may receive antiviral medicines that can cure the HCV in most cases.

For HCV-related cirrhosis, liver failure or cancer, our liver specialists can provide advanced treatments that include medications, surgery or liver transplant.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment with one of our liver disease specialists, call 410-328-1358.