Hepatitis C can cause lifelong, potentially fatal complications if it’s allowed to persist, as the virus can damage the liver, even causing liver cancer. But recent medical advancements have made it possible to treat hep C and prevent permanent liver problems. Hep C can be spread sexually, though it’s more often transmitted by sharing needles.

Hep C is just one of the major strains of hepatitis, and many people are confused about hepatitis C virus (HCV) and how it could affect them. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about hep c and how it’s treated:

Is Hep C curable?

In some cases, yes. Acute, short-term hepatitis C infections often can be alleviated with medication or even just rest. Those who have been infected for a longer period (usually six months or more) may have complications that can’t be totally cured with treatment.

Is hep C an STD?

Hep C can be transmitted through sex, but that is not the most common transmission mode. Most hep C infections are caused by exposure to the blood of an infected person, such as by the sharing of needles or accidental needlesticks in healthcare settings. But it is possible to contract hep C through sex. HIV-infected men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of contracting hep C sexually.

What is Hep C caused by?

Hep C is caused by the hepatitis C virus, and infections of this virus are abbreviated HCV. As many as 25% of people infected with HCV never become symptomatic and find that the infection resolves on its own. But the majority of people infected with HCV develop chronic hep C, which if untreated can lead to serious liver problems and even death.

Is Hep C fatal?

Untreated hepatitis C can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and cirrhosis, all of which can be fatal. But recent medical advancements have made successful treatment of chronic hep C possible for many patients.

Can Hep C be cured without treatment?

As many as 25% of people infected with hep C will never develop symptoms and their bodies will clear up the infections on their own. Researchers have yet to fully understand why some people are able to do this while others aren’t, but predictors of spontaneous clearance include being female and young.

Is Hep C easily transmitted?

A person’s risk of transmission of hep C depends on their lifestyle. For most people, the chances of coming into direct contact with the blood of an infected person, which is the only way to transmit hep C, are very small. But those who engage in high-risk activities, such as using IV drugs, and those who work in healthcare settings are at an elevated risk of contact with the blood of an infected person.

Why should baby boomers be tested for Hep C?

New research suggests that the reason baby boomers are especially prone to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections is that between 1940 and 1965, it was not uncommon for medical syringes to be reused, potentially exposing uninfected people to infected blood. About 75% of people in North America with chronic hep C were born between 1945 and 1964.

Is Hep C treatment painful?

For most patients today, hep C treatment consists of pills, so few patients undergoing treatment should experience pain from the treatments themselves. However, people with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) often have experienced damage to their livers, which can cause pain in some cases.

What are the chances of getting Hep C sexually?

Hep C can be spread sexually, though the risk is relatively low. Contracting hepatitis C virus (HCV) requires the blood of the infected person to make its way into the bloodstream of the uninfected person, so for HCV to spread by sex requires the uninfected person to be exposed to the infected person’s blood or bodily fluids containing blood. This is more likely to happen during rough sex or in cases where an infected person has unprotected sex with many partners.

Can your body fight off Hep C?

Probably not, but as many as 25% of people who become infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are able to resolve the infection on their own without ever developing symptoms. It’s not totally clear why this happens for some people and not others, but factors include being young and female.

How long can you have Hep C without knowing?

It’s common for those with hep C to experience no symptoms for as many as 30 years, and a small percentage (as much as 25%) of people will never experience symptoms at all and their bodies will clear the infection on their own. Only about half of the nearly 4 million Americans infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) have actually been diagnosed.

How expensive is Hep C treatment?

The innovations in hepatitis C treatment that have made it possible to cure up to 90% of people with hep C often come at a high price. For instance, a combination pill, Harvoni, costs more than $90,000 for a three-month treatment course.

Can Hep C come back?

Yes, successful treatment of hepatitis C does not provide inoculation against the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the future. It’s likely that those who become infected with HCV in the first place have an immune response that’s ineffective against hep C, and treatment does not fix this problem.

Can a man get hep C from a woman?

Direct exposure to blood or bodily fluids containing blood is how hepatitis C is transmitted, so provided a man is exposed under those conditions, yes, it’s entirely possible for a man to contract hepatitis C virus (HCV) from a woman. While needle-based exposure is the most common transmission method, it is possible to transmit HCV during sex, so women with HCV are advised to refrain from sex while on their periods.

How long does it take to test positive for hep C?

Virus particles of hepatitis C virus (HCV) are detectable in a newly infected person within 1-2 weeks of exposure. Hep C antibodies begin to show up after virus particles are detectable and generally take 3 weeks to 3 months to appear.

Is Hep C transmitted through saliva?

Saliva that contains infected blood could transmit hepatitis C, though that’s not the typical way a person becomes infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

How is Hep C acquired?

The use of injection drugs is the single most common method of transmitted the hepatitis C virus (HCV), though individuals working in healthcare settings are also at an elevated risk due to accidental needlesticks. And, though it’s less common, hep C also can be transmitted through sex, but it’s necessary for an uninfected person’s bloodstream to directly contact the blood or bodily fluids containing blood of an infected person.

What does hep C pain feel like?

Chronic hep C can cause symptoms like depression and fatigue, but many people with hepatitis C virus (HCV) experience abdominal pain as well as musculoskeletal, stomach and joint pain.

Is Hep C curable?

Yes, in many cases. A new class of drugs, biologics, have been shown to cure as many as 95% of people with hep C. Also, about 25% of people who contract the virus will never show symptoms and their bodies will cure themselves.

What happens when Hep C goes untreated?

Untreated hepatitis C virus (HCV) can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and even liver cancer, all of which can be fatal if the disease is allowed to advance.

Is Hep C contracted sexually?

Yes, but it’s not the most common means of transmission. Passing along hepatitis C virus (HCV) requires the blood of an uninfected person to come into direct contact with the blood of an infected person, and the most common way this happens is by sharing needles. But it’s also possible for this to happen during sex if the blood of both individuals is present.

Can Hep C be cured naturally?

As many as 25% of people who contract hepatitis C will be cured naturally when their bodies successfully fight off the infection. It’s not fully known yet why some people’s bodies are able to cure themselves of hep C, but it’s believed that two factors are helpful — being young and female.