Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious, long lasting disease. It is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. More than 3 million Americans have Chronic Hepatitis C. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) now recommends that anyone born from 1945 through 1965 (The Baby Boomer Generation) should be tested.
According to the CDC, approximately 75% – 85% of people who became infected with the Hepatitis C virus develop chronic infection. It may take 20 – 30 years for symptoms to appear. In that time, the Hepatitis C virus can damage the liver.
Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis C
- Fatigue (mild to severe)
- Loss of appetite
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Muscle or joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- “Brain Fog”
You should be tested for Hepatitis C if you….
- Currently inject drugs
- Injected or snorted drugs in the past, even if it was just once or occurred many years ago
- Have the HIV infection
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Received donated blood or organs before 1992
- Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needle stick or injury with a sharp object
- Are on Hemodialysis
- Have a history of sexually transmitted diseases
- Had unprotected sex, especially with many different people
- Have tattoos or body piercings
- Shared a razor or toothbrush with someone who may be infected with Hepatitis C
How is Hepatitis C diagnosed?
Doctors can diagnose Hepatitis C using specific blood tests not routinely performed during regular physical exams. A person first gets a screening test that looks for antibodies. Antibodies are chemicals released in the bloodstream when a person becomes infected. If the screening test is positive for Hepatitis C antibodies, different blood tests are needed to determine whether the infection has been cleared or has become a chronic infection.
How is Chronic Hepatitis C treated?
Most people with HCV (Hepatitis C virus) lead normal healthy lives and some people may not need treatment with HCV medicines because the virus may not be causing much liver damage. There is a combination of 2 or 3 medicines to treat Hepatitis C – Pegylated Interferon, Ribavirin, and a HCV Protease Inhibitor. The combination of medicines can cure up to about 8 out of 10 people who take it. The goal of treatment is to obtain viral clearance or a sustained virological response, also called a viral cure.
Medications approved to treat HCV
Pegylated Interferon – A type of Interferon that lasts longer in the body and works better.
Ribavirin – A pill that is used with Interferon.
HCV Protease Inhibitor – A pill that is used with Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin.
Tips for staying healthy with Hepatitis C
- See your health care provider for regular check-ups.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet.
- Rest when you are tired.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines.
- Stop using alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.
- Try not to worry too much.