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Hepatitis C Specialist

St. Luke's Healthcare

Internal Medicine, Primary Care & Addiction Medicine located in Mid-City, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Mandeville, Denham Springs & Abbeville, LA

Hepatitis C can turn into a serious liver infection, but thankfully most cases are cured within 8-12 weeks. St. Luke’s Healthcare in Mid-City Baton Rouge, Mandeville, Abbeville, Denham Springs, and Lafayette, Louisiana, offers hepatitis C screening tests for adults and can treat active infections using antiviral medications. To set up your appointment with Kristen Ducote, MD, and the team, call St. Luke’s Healthcare or book online today.

Hepatitis C Q & A

Hepatitis C Service

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a viral infection affecting the liver. It causes your liver to become inflamed and can lead to serious, permanent liver damage if you don’t treat it quickly. 

In some cases, hepatitis C is a short-term infection that goes away with treatment. It’s even possible to spontaneously get rid of hepatitis C without treatment. For over half of all people who get hepatitis C, however, it becomes a chronic condition. 

Fortunately, hepatitis C is often curable even when it’s chronic. The St. Luke’s Healthcare team works with you to manage your condition to lessen your chances of serious liver damage. 

How did I get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C spreads via contact with blood infected with the virus. While it seems pretty easy to avoid blood-to-blood contact with someone who has an infection, hepatitis C can occur without symptoms, especially in its early phases. Therefore, you might not know if someone around you has it. 

Common ways that hepatitis C spreads include:

  • Sharing personal items, like razors or toothbrushes
  • Organ transplants
  • Childbirth (from the mother to the baby)
  • Sexual contact 
  • Using contaminated needles

Fortunately, you can’t spread or catch hepatitis C with normal behaviors like hugging, kissing, or even coughing and sneezing. 

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

The acute phase, which is the first phase of a hepatitis C infection, rarely comes with any symptoms. For this reason, you might not know about your infection for weeks or months. 

If your immune system doesn’t flush the infection and it enters the chronic phase, you’ll probably get symptoms eventually. Usually, the symptoms appear when there is liver damage. If you get them, they might include:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eye discoloration)
  • Joint pain
  • Low appetite
  • Easy bleeding and bruising
  • Weight loss
  • Itching
  • Leg swelling
  • Nausea

If you get any acute symptoms, they typically appear 4-12 weeks after your initial exposure to the hepatitis C virus. 

How is hepatitis C treated?

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting hepatitis C screenings since around 80% of cases don’t show symptoms. This is especially important if your doctor notes that you’re at an increased risk of exposure for any reason. 

If you have hepatitis C, the St. Luke’s Healthcare team assesses your degree of liver damage using noninvasive tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood tests, or a liver biopsy. 

Antiviral medications are the primary course of treatment for hepatitis C and similar infections. The team monitors your response to your medications, and the goal is to have no more of the virus in your system 12 weeks after you stop taking them.

For advanced cases of hepatitis C with significant liver damage and serious complications, a liver transplant may be necessary. To stop the disease from getting to this point, you should cut back on alcohol consumption and try to avoid medications that cause or accelerate liver damage. 

Schedule your hepatitis C screening appointment today by calling St. Luke’s Healthcare or clicking the online request tool.

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