According to the CDC, about 75% of people living with Hepatitis C were born during 1945-1965. People born between these years are generally referred to as the “baby boomers,” and they are five times more likely than other adults to be infected with hepatitis C. Why is it so important to get tested? About 75-80% of people with hepatitis C do not know they are infected. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer, and the need for liver transplants. People who are unaware they have the virus are in danger long-term if they do not get tested. We will go over what exactly hepatitis C is, the testing process, and the treatments.
What Is Hepatitis C?
There are different types of hepatitis viruses, but they all attack the liver. Type C can remain dormant in a person for a long time before it begins destroying the liver. A lot of the time, when people develop hepatitis C, it is the long-term chronic version because of the person not knowing. If left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure. Some symptoms, such as fatigue and nausea occur, but many people brush these off. Severe symptoms may include dark urine, jaundice, and fluid retention.
Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood. Sharing needles and razors, are one way to get hepatitis C, but the most common way is through hospital and clinic visits. The virus can stay on the equipment for weeks, especially if they are not cleaned properly. Blood banks were not screening for Hepatitis C until 1992, so people who got blood transfusions before then may have been infected.
The Testing Process
In order to test for Hepatitis C, doctors need to take blood work to check your liver enzymes, since this is what gets attacked by the virus. There are two blood tests, one for hepatitis C antibodies, and one for the virus. If you test positive for the antibodies, that means you had the disease, and your body fought it and won. After blood work is performed, doctors may need to repeat it after a few months to be sure of the results.
If you were born between 1945 to 1965, then physicians will generally ask for some tests to be run for hepatitis C due to the high number of people who have it born in between those years. If they do not ask, then you should ask to be tested for the virus. Tests such as an ultrasound and MRI’s can be performed to measure damage to the liver. The virus will scar the liver without any visible outward side effects. If you were born during the 1945 to 1965 window, do not hesitate to ask for a test, even if you feel healthy.
Treating Hepatitis C
If you have hepatitis C, there are some drugs that you can take to send the disease into remission. Some new therapies can halt the disease and reduce the duration of therapy for many patients. However, medication is not the only thing that will help with beating the virus. In order to live a healthy life, there has to be a healthy lifestyle. Avoid alcohol consumption, as it damages the liver more, making it harder for the body to fight off the infection. Exercising and eating healthy are always important in aiding the body to fight off unwanted infections. It is better to know if you have hepatitis C than to allow it to slowly damage your liver until it is too late. Get tested.