Children's Hospital Colorado

Hepatitis C

What is hepatitis?

In simple terms, the word hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Many things can cause hepatitis, including viruses (hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C), fatty liver disease, and autoimmune and metabolic liver disease.

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the "hepatitis C" virus. This infection can be brief or lifelong.

What causes hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus spread through contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.

Who gets hepatitis C?

People at risk to acquire the virus include infants born to infected mothers, a needle stick from an infected person, sharing needles with an infected person or having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person. Up to 46,000 children are infected in the United States and approximately 180 million people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis C.

What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis C?

The majority of infected children acquire the virus at birth and are without symptoms in childhood. Older age at the time of acquiring the virus infection can be associated with symptoms. Symptoms can occur weeks to months after someone is exposed to the virus. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and/or skin)

How is hepatitis C diagnosed?

Standard blood tests will help in the diagnosis, and specialized blood tests can confirm hepatitis C infection. Patients with chronic hepatitis C (infection for more than six months) will need blood test monitoring and ongoing clinic visits with a Children's Hospital Colorado liver specialist to assess for progression of disease.

Why choose Children's Colorado for hepatitis C testing?

At Children's Colorado, our staff members are specialists at obtaining blood from patients of all sizes. In addition, a special cream can be applied to decrease the pain from a needle stick. Our liver specialists are experts in interpretation of hepatitis C testing and provide education and support for patients with hepatitis C and their families.

How does Children's Colorado treat hepatitis C?

Some children with hepatitis C spontaneously clear the virus without treatment. The virus infection often becomes chronic, and can cause liver scarring (cirrhosis) over the years or increase the risk of liver cancer. People with other underlying liver disease also have a higher risk of complications if also infected with hepatitis C. 

Children's Colorado also offers all currently available medical therapies for children with chronic hepatitis C infection. In addition, our liver specialists conduct clinical trials of investigational therapies for chronic hepatitis C. Currently available therapies are usually given for 6-12 months. The liver specialist will decide with you if and when medical therapy is indicated. 

Why choose Children's Colorado for hepatitis treatment?

The Digestive Health Institute is consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for treatment of digestive disorders. We are one of the only Pediatric Liver Centers in the nation that has six board-certified hepatologists (liver specialists), as well as a nationally-recognized Infectious Disease team with expertise in infectious hepatitis.

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