What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C affects 2-5 million people in the US and most people do not know they have the virus. It is the leading cause of liver failure, liver cancer and liver related death in the US.
Hepatitis C is a virus that is found in the blood. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and having Hepatitis C in your liver causes liver inflammation. Over time active inflammation can lead to scar tissue in the liver. Most people have no symptoms from the infection until they develop complications from advanced liver disease.
Who should get tested?
Hepatitis C is spread by blood to blood contact. Anyone who has shared needles or exposure to infected needles, received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, used intranasal drugs is at risk. The CDC now recommends that any one born between 1945 and 1965 get a one-time test for the Hepatitis C virus as so many people in this baby boomer group are infected. Most people with Hepatitis C have no symptoms, so it does not make sense to wait until you develop symptoms to be screened. By the time you have symptoms you may already have advanced liver disease.
Why should I get tested?
A positive test means that you have been infected with the virus before. It does not mean that you have active infection now. About 15-20 % of people who are infected get rid of the virus on their own but continue to test positive on the antibody test. Hepatitis C is now curable in over 90% of infected people. The treatment no longer involves interferon, which required an injection and could be difficult to take. It is now treated with pills and less than 5% of people are not able to complete treatment as the pills are well tolerated.
Why should I come to Dartmouth?
The Dartmouth liver team will work with your Doctor to make diagnosing and treating the Hepatitis C painless and easy. We will ask your Doctor to do simple blood tests prior to your visit and send them to us. At your visit we will have an ultrasound done to look at your liver and you will be checked for liver scarring without a biopsy (Fibrocan). By the end of the visit you will know how much liver disease you have and we will provide you a complete plan for treatment and caring for your liver disease.