Sustained virologic response - hepatitis C; SVR - hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to swelling (inflammation) of the liver.
Other types of viral hepatitis include:
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to swelling (or inflammation) of the liver. If you've been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you may be worrying about your health. Let's answer some questions you may have about hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is irritation and swelling of the liver from infection with the hepatitis C virus. You can get hepatitis C if you have been on long-term kidney dialysis, or have regular contact with blood at work (such as a health care worker), have unprotected sex with someone infected with hepatitis C, use injected street drugs or share a needle with someone who has hepatitis C, received a tattoo or acupuncture from contaminated instruments, although the risk is low with licensed, commercial tattoo shops, received blood or organs from a donor who has hepatitis C, share a toothbrush or razors with someone who has the disease, or were born to a mother infected with hepatitis C. Most people newly infected with hepatitis C virus will not have symptoms. About 10 percent will have jaundice (or yellow skin) that gets better. The bad news is that most people infected with hepatitis C will have it for a long time, usually with no symptoms. Typically, long-term hepatitis C infection can lead to liver scarring, a condition called cirrhosis, or even liver cancer. If your doctor suspects hepatitis C, you will need blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. If you've had the disease for a long time, you doctor can use a procedure called a liver biopsy to see how much damage has been done to your liver. You will need to take medicine to try to remove the virus from your blood and reduce your risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. The most common medications are a combination of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin, an antiviral medication. Pegylated interferon alfa is an injection you will probably receive weekly. You can take ribavirin as a capsule twice a day. Treatment may last up to 48 weeks. Most people with hepatitis C have the chronic form. But some people may get better with treatment, although they may need continued testing. Even if treatment doesn't remove the virus from your blood, it can reduce your chance of severe liver disease.
Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
You can catch hepatitis C if the blood of someone who has hepatitis C enters your body. Exposure may occur:
People at risk of hepatitis C are those who:
Most people who are recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms in most cases. Some people have yellowing of the skin (jaundice) that goes away. Chronic infection often causes no symptoms. But tiredness, skin disorders and other problems can occur.
Persons who have long-term (chronic) infection often have no symptoms until their liver becomes scarred (cirrhosis). Most people with this condition are ill and have many health problems.
The following symptoms may occur with hepatitis C infection:
Blood tests are done to check for hepatitis C:
Everyone born from 1945 to 1965 (the baby boomer generation) should get a one-time test for hepatitis C.
Genetic testing is done to check for the type of hepatitis C (genotype). There are six types of the virus (genotypes 1 through 6). Test results can help your health care provider choose treatment that is best for you.
The following tests are done to identify and monitor liver damage from hepatitis C:
You should talk to your provider about your treatment options and when treatment should begin.
Medicines used to treat hepatitis C are called antiviral drugs because they fight the HCV. Newer antiviral drugs:
The choice of which drug depends on the genotype of the virus you have.
A liver transplant may be recommended for people who develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. Your provider can tell you more about liver transplant.
If you have hepatitis C:
Joining a support group can help ease the stress of having hepatitis C. Ask your provider about liver disease resources and support groups in your area.
Most people (75% to 85%) who are infected with the virus develop chronic hepatitis C. This condition poses a risk for cirrhosis, liver cancer, or both. The outlook for hepatitis C depends in part on the genotype.
A good response to treatment occurs when the virus can no longer be detected in the blood 12 weeks or more after treatment. This is called "sustained virologic response" (SVR). Up to 90% of those treated for some genotypes have this type of response.
Some people do not respond to initial treatment. They may need to be re-treated with a different drug regimen.
Also, some people can become re-infected or infected with a different genotype strain.
Call your provider if:
Steps that can be taken to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C from one person to another include:
If you or your partner is infected with hepatitis C and you have been in a stable and monogamous (no other partners) relationship, the risk of giving the virus to, or getting the virus from, the other person is low.
HCV cannot be spread by casual contact, such as holding hands, kissing, coughing or sneezing, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.
Currently there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
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Last reviewed on: 1/28/2016
Reviewed by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.