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Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) spreads through contaminated blood.
Your risk of hepatitis C infection is increased if you:
Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood, which may happen if an infected needle pierces your skin
Have ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
Received hemodialysis treatments for a long period of time
Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection
Were ever in prison
Were born between 1945 and 1965, the age group with the highest incidence of hepatitis C infection
Acute hepatitis C infection doesn't always become chronic. Some people clear HCV from their bodies after the acute phase, an outcome known as spontaneous viral clearance. In studies of people diagnosed with acute HCV, rates of spontaneous viral clearance have varied from 14 to 50 percent. Acute hepatitis C also responds well to antiviral therapy.
Long-term infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is known as chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C is usually a "silent" infection for many years, until the virus damages the liver enough to cause the signs and symptoms of liver disease. Among these signs and symptoms are:
Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
Swelling in your legs
Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
Spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)
The sphincter of Oddi is a muscular valve that controls the flow of digestive juices (bile and pancreatic juice) through ducts from the liver and pancreas into the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
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