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What are the Different Causes of Hepatitis C?

Angela Crout-Mitchell
Angela Crout-Mitchell

Hepatitis C is one of the diseases caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and often affects the liver in a variety of adverse ways. There are several causes of hepatitis C including alcohol abuse, exposure to certain drugs, medications, and chemicals, and various diseases. Since this disease is often acquired through contact with infected blood, sharing needles, as in the case of drug use, carries a high risk of contracting HCV. Hepatitis C can also be contracted through sexual intercourse with an affected partner, or from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, although these circumstances are considered to be relatively rare. Needle stick injuries, especially for medical care workers, may introduce the virus to new hosts, and extreme care is taken in these situations to limit the possibility of accidental contamination.

One of the most well known causes of hepatitis C is alcoholism, a condition which creates an environment ideal for liver disease and liver cancer to potentially flourish. The presence of hepatitis C is often considered to be a precursor for cirrhosis of the liver. In it early stages, hepatitis C can be reversed, however it is uncommon for symptoms to appear until later stages when the HCV has reached chronic status. Almost 75% of people who acquire hepatitis C do not learn of the condition until it has become chronic, at which stage treatments are less effective.


Transmission of the virus through contaminated needles is another primary cause of hepatitis c. In the past, blood transfusions were often a cause for concern because medical technology had not yet found a way to prevent contaminated blood from being used in emergencies. Those circumstances are no longer considered one of the causes of hepatitis C in most regions. The practice of sharing needles for intravenous drug use, however, is still one of the leading causes of this disease and it is strongly recommended that drug users never share needles with others. While the other health risks remain from intravenous drug use, preventing hepatitis C for this demographic can be accomplished with the use of clean needles.

Some of the less common causes of hepatitis C include the infection of an infant at birth from an affected mother, and health care workers becoming infected from needle accidents. Hepatitis C is a blood borne disease and as such not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease, though it is possible to acquire the disease through intercourse. Unprotected sex with multiple partners is a risk factor in acquiring HCV. This disease is not spread through casual contact with affected persons, but medical experts recommend reducing any contact with items potentially exposed to contaminated blood and take precautions when blood is present.

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