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Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. It impacts the liver by triggering the body’s immune response, causing inflammation and, if left untreated, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
Types of Hepatitis C
There are two types of hepatitis C: acute hepatitis C and chronic hepatitis C. Acute hepatitis C, which occurs once the hepatitis C virus takes hold, is the first phase. It usually lasts for around six months. Often people don’t realize they have acute hepatitis C because they have no symptoms. Acute hepatitis C can be cured with antiviral medications.
If acute hepatitis C isn’t treated, it becomes chronic hepatitis C. As many people don’t know they have acute hepatitis C and thus don’t treat it, between 70% and 85% of people with the virus move to the chronic phase. People can have chronic hepatitis C for many years before their liver deteriorates enough to show symptoms.
The Hepatitis C Virus
When the hepatitis C virus enters the bloodstream it travels to the liver and invades its cells. When it multiplies inside these cells, it triggers the body’s immune response. When the body tries to fight the virus, it attacks its own liver cells, causing inflammation and damage.
All strains of the virus can cause hepatitis C and no one strain is worse than another. However, health care providers treat each one a little differently for the best results. Most hepatitis C cases in the United States are caused by Type 1.
Hepatitis C in the United States
Around 2.4 million Americans are estimated to have hepatitis C. However, as many people don’t know they have the virus, the actual figure may be much larger. Hepatitis C affects both men and women exposed to the hepatitis C virus.