Who is the leaflet for?
This leaflet is designed for patients newly diagnosed with hepatitis C infection.
What is its aim?
It aims to provide both an overview of hepatitis C and links to more detailed resources.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that causes liver inflammation and scarring. Up to 2% of the world’s population is infected by the virus.
How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
Hepatitis C is diagnosed by blood testing. Severity of liver scarring is assessed by ultrasound tests (including Fibroscan where available) and sometimes liver biopsy.
What is the outlook for a patient with hepatitis C?
After contracting the virus, about 1 in 5 patients will clear it completely. The other 4 of 5 will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, which can eventually lead to liver cirrhosis in around 20% of patients over 20 years. Patients with cirrhosis are at risk of liver failure and liver cancer in the long term. More information regarding cirrhosis is provided in additional information leaflets.
What are the treatment options for hepatitis C?
Treatment for hepatitis C has been revolutionised by the development of direct acting antiviral therapy. The treatment involves an 8 to 24 week course of tablets with few side effects and high rates of long term cure (> 90%). Patients are being prioritised for this treatment according to factors such as liver disease severity. The details of drug regimens are laid out for health professionals on the Eastern Liver Network website (opens in a new tab) under “Guidelines”, but are freely accessible if you would like to learn more.
It is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and take regular exercise. Minimise your alcohol intake and avoid it altogether if you have liver cirrhosis. We recommend a vaccination against hepatitis A and hepatitis B if you have not been exposed to the virus previously.
How is hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C can only be spread from person to person by blood-to-blood contact. Common modes of transmission include blood transfusions before 1992 in the United Kingdom, needle stick injuries, intravenous drug use and from mother to baby (5% risk).
Other possible modes of transmission include sharing razors and toothbrushes, inhaling contaminated drugs such as cocaine, tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and anal intercourse. Vaginal intercourse does not carry a significant risk.
How is the spread of hepatitis C limited?
There is no vaccination for hepatitis C. If you have hepatitis C, it is therefore important to prevent spread of the condition by avoiding sharing injecting equipment, not donating blood or organs, not sharing equipment such as razors and toothbrushes and using barrier methods of contraception if engaging in anal intercourse.
Further information and useful contacts
We are smoke-free
Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.
Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998. www.cuh.nhs.uk/contact-us/accessible-information/
Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge
Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151