simple blood test could improve your long-term health or
possibly save your life, would you have it done? The answer
for most people is a resounding "yes." Testing for
hepatitis C, which entails a basic blood draw and analysis,
can be the difference between serious health complications
later in life or a manageable in some cases curable
Louwagie, physician assistant at Mayo Clinic Health System,
explores questions and answers to help you understand more
about chronic hepatitis C.
C is a viral infection that targets the liver, leading to
inflammation. Several hepatitis viruses exist, but hepatitis C
is one of the most serious forms. Hepatitis A, B and C are
through contact with contaminated blood, hepatitis C is often
contracted by sharing needles or snorting drugs. However,
receiving a blood transfusion, clotting factor or organ
transplant before 1992, getting piercings or tattoos in an
unsterile environment, and having a history of incarceration,
among other things, are also risks for hepatitis C.
people with hepatitis C dont know they have the infection.
Symptoms typically dont appear until later in the course of
chronic infection include:
Fluid accumulation in your abdomen
Swelling in the legs
Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
Spider-like blood vessels on your skin
symptoms usually dont appear until after hepatitis C has
caused years of liver damage, the importance of screening is
vital. Who should be tested?
A HEPATITIS C TEST IF YOU:
born between 1945 and 1965 (includes the highest rate of
infection in the general public)
injected or snorted drugs (current user or history of use)
a tattoo done in an unprofessional and/or unsterile
Received a blood transfusion, organ transplant or clotting
factor prior to 1992
your health care provider if you have questions or concerns
about being tested for hepatitis C.
untreated or undetected, hepatitis C can cause serious
complications, such as:
Cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver tissue, which impedes liver
catching hepatitis C early is integral to optimal long-term
health. Antiviral medications are available to treat and
eliminate hepatitis C from your body. Older forms of these
medications, which required patients to be on a regimen for
24-72 weeks, often elicited serious side effects like
depression, flu-like symptoms and loss of healthy blood cells.
New antiviral medications, on the other hand, are oral pills
with very low risk of side effects and better cure rates.
the new treatments are highly superior to older agents, which
excluded people with mental illness or history of suicide.
Newer agents have very little exclusion criteria. People who
were barred from treatment in the past now can possibly be
treated. If a person underwent treatment in the past and was
not cured, they should be re-evaluated.
health care team may recommend lifestyle changes to keep you
and others healthy if you are diagnosed with hepatitis C.
Common measures are refraining from consuming alcohol,
avoiding medications that may cause liver damage and taking
extra precautions to protect others from contact with your
at risk of hepatitis C, talk to your health care provider
about testing. Identifying and treating health issues early
helps improve your well-being for years to come.