More than 3 million people live with hepatitis C, the most common blood-borne disease affecting the baby boomer generation – but many don’t even know they have it. Hartford Hospital‘s Dr. Michael Einstein tells you what you need to know about this devastating liver disease:
Q: Who is at risk for developing hepatitis C?
A: Because hepatitis C is a blood-borne liver illness, those people with a history of blood transfusion or an organ transplant prior to 1992, when there was not a good commercially available test for hepatitis C, dialysis patients, ever used IV drugs, homemade tattoos or piercings, come from high prevalent areas in the world, born to hepatitis C-positive parents are at high risk. Recently, new recommendations to screen all baby boomers regardless of risk have been made as well. One in 25-30 in the baby boomer population is infected. Half of those who are infected do not have an identifiable risk factor.
Q: What are the effects of this disease on the liver?
A: Most people will not know that they have hepatitis C. There are typically no symptoms until people progress to cirrhosis and start having issues from this. In some, hepatitis C can cause a rash, joint pain or lead to kidney troubles. For those who have developed severe scarring in the liver, which is called cirrhosis, they can retain fluid in their belly, become confused, have bleeding varicose veins in their esophagus or develop liver cancer. It is important to know that you have hepatitis C so that you can be offered treatment and prevent these complications.
Q: What is the screening process, and how is hepatitis C diagnosed?
A: Screening for hepatitis C is easy. It is a simple blood test to measure an antibody to hepatitis C. If this is positive, then another confirmatory blood test should be run. This is because 20-30 percent of those with the antibody to hepatitis C will clear the virus on their own.
Q: What are the latest treatment options for those with hepatitis C?
A: Tremendous progress has been made over the past three decades since the discovery of the virus. Today for all types of hepatitis C there are very effective cures. Pills can cure the virus in over 95 percent of cases. These pills have very few side effects and are tolerated well and are typically once a day.
Talk to your primary care physician about being tested for Hepatitis C. If you need a primary care physician, book an appointment with the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group now, or call 877.707.4442. If you are currently living with Hepatitis C, Hartford Hospital’s Hepatology Clinic provides expert care with recognized cure rates of up to 100 percent. Call 860.972.4262 to schedule an appointment.