Information for Patients
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is swelling that happens when tissues of the body are injured or infected. Inflammation can damage organs.
There are different types of hepatitis. One type, hepatitis C, is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic:
- Acute hepatitis C is a short-term infection. The symptoms can last up to 6 months. Sometimes your body is able to fight off the infection and the virus goes away. But for most people, an acute infection leads to chronic infection.
- Chronic hepatitis C is a long-lasting infection. If it is not treated, it can last for a lifetime and cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and even death.
How is hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with the blood of someone who has HCV. This contact may be through:
- Sharing drug needles or other drug materials with someone who has HCV. In the United States, this is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.
- Getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on someone who has HCV. This can happen in health care settings.
- Being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not sterilized after being used on someone who has HCV
- Having contact with the blood or open sores of someone who has HCV
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person's blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
- Being born to a mother with HCV
- Having unprotected sex with someone who has HCV
Before 1992, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since then, there has been routine testing of the U.S. blood supply for HCV. It is now very rare for someone to get HCV this way.
Who is at risk for hepatitis C?
You are more likely to get hepatitis C if you:
- Have injected drugs
- Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- Have been on kidney dialysis
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- Have had tattoos or body piercings
- Have worked or lived in a prison
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- Have HIV/AIDS
- Have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months
- Have had a sexually transmitted disease
- Are a man who has had sex with men
If you are at high risk for hepatitis C, your health care provider will likely recommend that you get tested for it.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with acute hepatitis C do have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include:
- Dark yellow urine
- Gray- or clay-colored stools
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain in your abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you probably will not have symptoms until it causes complications. This can happen decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
What other problems can hepatitis C cause?
Without treatment, hepatitis C may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C can prevent these complications.
How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
Health care providers diagnose hepatitis C based on your medical history, a physical exam, and blood tests.
If you do have hepatitis C, you may need additional tests to check for liver damage. These tests may include other blood tests, an ultrasound of the liver, and a liver biopsy.
What are the treatments for hepatitis C?
Treatment for hepatitis C is with antiviral medicines. They can cure the disease in most cases.
If you have acute hepatitis C, your health care provider may wait to see if your infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
If your hepatitis C causes cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Treatments for health problems related to cirrhosis include medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If your hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
Can hepatitis C be prevented?
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. But you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by:
- Not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- Wearing gloves if you have to touch another person's blood or open sores
- Making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- Not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
- Using a latex condom during sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
General Equivalence Map Definitions
The ICD-9 and ICD-10 GEMs are used to facilitate linking between the diagnosis codes in ICD-9-CM and the new ICD-10-CM code set. The GEMs are the raw material from which providers, health information vendors and payers can derive specific applied mappings to meet their needs.
- Approximate Flag - The approximate flag is on, indicating that the relationship between the code in the source system and the code in the target system is an approximate equivalent.
- No Map Flag - The no map flag indicates that a code in the source system is not linked to any code in the target system.
- Combination Flag - The combination flag indicates that more than one code in the target system is required to satisfy the full equivalent meaning of a code in the source system.
Index of Diseases and Injuries Definitions
- And - The word "and" should be interpreted to mean either "and" or "or" when it appears in a title.
- Code also note - A "code also" note instructs that two codes may be required to fully describe a condition, but this note does not provide sequencing direction.
- Code first - Certain conditions have both an underlying etiology and multiple body system manifestations due to the underlying etiology. For such conditions, the ICD-10-CM has a coding convention that requires the underlying condition be sequenced first followed by the manifestation. Wherever such a combination exists, there is a "use additional code" note at the etiology code, and a "code first" note at the manifestation code. These instructional notes indicate the proper sequencing order of the codes, etiology followed by manifestation.
- Type 1 Excludes Notes - A type 1 Excludes note is a pure excludes note. It means "NOT CODED HERE!" An Excludes1 note indicates that the code excluded should never be used at the same time as the code above the Excludes1 note. An Excludes1 is used when two conditions cannot occur together, such as a congenital form versus an acquired form of the same condition.
- Type 2 Excludes Notes - A type 2 Excludes note represents "Not included here". An excludes2 note indicates that the condition excluded is not part of the condition represented by the code, but a patient may have both conditions at the same time. When an Excludes2 note appears under a code, it is acceptable to use both the code and the excluded code together, when appropriate.
- Includes Notes - This note appears immediately under a three character code title to further define, or give examples of, the content of the category.
- Inclusion terms - List of terms is included under some codes. These terms are the conditions for which that code is to be used. The terms may be synonyms of the code title, or, in the case of "other specified" codes, the terms are a list of the various conditions assigned to that code. The inclusion terms are not necessarily exhaustive. Additional terms found only in the Alphabetic Index may also be assigned to a code.
- NEC "Not elsewhere classifiable" - This abbreviation in the Alphabetic Index represents "other specified". When a specific code is not available for a condition, the Alphabetic Index directs the coder to the "other specified” code in the Tabular List.
- NOS "Not otherwise specified" - This abbreviation is the equivalent of unspecified.
- See - The "see" instruction following a main term in the Alphabetic Index indicates that another term should be referenced. It is necessary to go to the main term referenced with the "see" note to locate the correct code.
- See Also - A "see also" instruction following a main term in the Alphabetic Index instructs that there is another main term that may also be referenced that may provide additional Alphabetic Index entries that may be useful. It is not necessary to follow the "see also" note when the original main term provides the necessary code.
- 7th Characters - Certain ICD-10-CM categories have applicable 7th characters. The applicable 7th character is required for all codes within the category, or as the notes in the Tabular List instruct. The 7th character must always be the 7th character in the data field. If a code that requires a 7th character is not 6 characters, a placeholder X must be used to fill in the empty characters.
- With - The word "with" should be interpreted to mean "associated with" or "due to" when it appears in a code title, the Alphabetic Index, or an instructional note in the Tabular List. The word "with" in the Alphabetic Index is sequenced immediately following the main term, not in alphabetical order.