More than 3.9 million Americans have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. But many more live without realizing that they have this disease. In some cases, hepatitis C lives in an organism for ten years before finally showing symptoms. When the first signs appear, this virus has already caused irreparable damage. But if you get tested for this condition frequently, you can avoid suffering from the consequences that come with hepatitis C. This is especially important for older adults because they comprise 75% of all hepatitis C cases.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Let’s start at the beginning by answering what is hepatitis C. It is a liver disease which is created by a virus that we can be infected with. If it’s not treated in time, it can lead to conditions such as cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. The most dangerous thing about hepatitis C is that it’s causing damage to our body without us knowing. This happens because, in its early stages, this virus shows no signs. The first symptoms that appear are yellow skin and fatigue. But when this happens, it can already be too late. For those that start suffering from irreparable cirrhosis, the damage is already done, and their liver may never fully recover.
Seniors at Risk
The generation of seniors which is in the most danger from hepatitis C includes all people born between 1945 and 1965. According to research conducted by the CDC, this group of people is most prone to the condition.
There are many reasons for this, although it is not completely clear. It has much to do with the fact that medical equipment wasn’t wholly sterilized until the ’80s. All hospitals started doing this only after the HIV scare of the 1980s. What’s even more frightening, donated blood and organs intended for transplanting weren’t tested for hepatitis C before 1992.
The test for hepatitis C is simple. It just includes screening your blood for hepatitis antibodies. This test can determine two things. The first one is if you have an active virus in your body. The second one is whether you have been infected with hepatitis C during your life. For those patients in which it was found that they had this condition earlier in life, secondary testing will be performed. The second test will look for an active virus. It only takes a few weeks to undergo these tests.
In all recorded cases of hepatitis C, it has been documented that 15% of patients will fight off this virus without any medication. This is called a spontaneous clearance. This occurrence is more frequent in woman than in their male counterparts. Because of this, men are more prone to the condition, while women will test positive at first with negative results coming later.
In most cases, this virus is spread by contact with infected blood. It’s good to know that things such as kissing, coughing, sharing food, or other forms of casual contact can’t cause hep C. It can be transferred through sexual intercourse, but if you are monogamous and use condoms, the chances of getting it are reduced. If you want to stay clear of HCV you shouldn’t use other people’s toothbrushes, nail clippers, or other items of personal hygiene.
Treatment for Hepatitis C
In the past, there weren’t many successful treatments for this condition. Some antiviral medications can lower the damage done to the liver, but in most cases, a transplant is the only solution. Luckily, in 2014, a cure was finally discovered. With one small flaw: it’s rather expensive. It costs between $50,000 and $90,000. So the best way to avoid this condition is to get tested before damage to the liver is done.
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