What is Hepatitis C?

What is Hepatitis C or HCV?

Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver.  The virus, called the Hepatitis C virus or HCV for short, is just one of the hepatitis viruses.   The other common hepatitis viruses are A and B, which differ somewhat from HCV in the way they are spread and treated.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States have chronic Hepatitis C infection.

What Causes Hepatitis C?

Because HCV infection usually produces no symptoms or very mild symptoms during the early stages, many people don’t know they have it until liver damage shows up – sometimes decades later – during routine medical tests.  Some people who get HCV have it for a short time (up to six months) and then get better on their own.  This is called acute Hepatitis C.  But most people (about 75% – 85%) will go on to develop chronic (or long-term) Hepatitis C, meaning it doesn’t go away.

Whereas Hepatitis A generally gives rise to acute hepatitis, Hepatitis C results in chronic hepatitis in most patients. An easy reminder is C for chronic in Hepatitis C and A for acute in Hepatitis A.

There are various causes for Hepatitis C. View the list of risk factors that increase your chance of infection with Hepatitis C.

Learn more about your options for treating Hepatitis C and which medications may be right for you.

This page has been updated September 2015.