It is estimated that 2.4 million people suffer from Hepatitis C in the United States. For some, Hepatitis C is a short-term, acute illness, but for 70% to 85% of sufferers, it develops into a long-term, chronic disease. Chronic Hepatitis C can result in serious health problems, some of which can be fatal.
Hepatitis C is a serious concern because there is currently no vaccine to prevent transmission. In order to prevent infection, proper precautions must be taken.
Hepatitis C is transmitted by coming in contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. Possible modes of transmission include injection drug use, unregulated tattoos, receipt of infected donated blood, needle-stick injuries, sharing personal items that come in contact with infected blood, birth to a Hepatitis C positive mother, or sex with an infected person.
People with newly acquired acute Hepatitis C may not immediately present with symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark urine
- Pale stool and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
Roughly 20%-30% of people who develop acute Hepatitis C will present with symptoms.
Chronic Hepatitis C develops slowly over several decades, and may be asymptomatic. Many people are not diagnosed with Hepatitis C until blood tests reveal elevated liver enzymes.
It is recommended that the following groups of people are tested for Hepatitis C:
- Current or previous drug users
- Persons born between 1945 and 1965, also known as the baby boomer generation
- Blood transfusion recipients prior to 1992
- Chronic hemodialysis patients
- Healthcare providers
- People with HIV
- Children born to Hepatitis C positive mothers
- Incarcerated persons
People who test Hepatitis C positive should be tested for liver disease. Hepatitis C infection can often be cured with oral HCV protease inhibitor therapy.
Premier Health Associates’ gastroenterology department has extensive experience in treating Hepatitis and other liver diseases. If you are having concerns about Hepatitis C or any other liver disease, make an appointment to see your primary care provider. That doctor can diagnose and if necessary refer you to PHA’s department of gastroenterology. PHA is open daily, Monday through Sunday.