Mayo Clinic: Iím a 62-year-old man with no health problems.
At my last checkup, my doctor recommended that I be tested for
hepatitis C, even though I donít have any symptoms. Is this
A: It is
important for people in your age group to be tested for
hepatitis C. Studies have shown that Americans born between
1945 and 1965 are five times more likely than other
individuals to be infected with the virus. Most people who
have hepatitis C do not show symptoms, so the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone
who falls in the high-risk age range get tested.
C is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. Its effects can
be serious and long-lasting. If left untreated, hepatitis C
can cause liver damage, scarring of the liver tissues ó a
condition known as cirrhosis ó and, eventually, even death.
Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the No. 1
reason for liver transplants.
60 to 80 percent of adults who become infected with hepatitis
C, the virus lingers in the body. But, in most cases, itís
impossible to tell it is there without testing. As people with
hepatitis C age, the virus slowly damages the liver over time.
Many people with hepatitis C donít know they have the
infection until liver problems show up. Thatís often decades
after the initial infection. Itís estimated that if everyone
in the recommended age group is tested for hepatitis C, it
could prevent more than 120,000 deaths from liver disease.
hepatitis C virus is spread from contact with contaminated
blood. The reason for the higher hepatitis C infection rate in
baby boomers is not entirely clear. It may be linked to the
fact that, before 1992, blood screening tests for hepatitis
were not as reliable as they are now. So, it was possible to
get the virus through a blood transfusion or an organ
transplant without knowing it.Some people may have become
infected with hepatitis C by sharing contaminated needles when
injecting drugs. This can happen even if a person comes in
contact with an infected needle only once. In many people, it
is not possible to know how they became infected. No matter
what the source of a hepatitis C infection, it is critical
that it be detected.
tests are available that can identify the hepatitis C virus.
When the virus is found, it may be necessary to take a small
sample of liver tissue ó a procedure called a liver biopsy
ó or have other tests done to determine the severity of
liver damage. Results of these tests can help guide treatment
decisions.Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral
medications that can clear the virus from the body. Usually, a
combination of these medications is taken over several weeks
to several months. Twelve weeks after the treatment is
completed, another blood test is done to check for hepatitis
C. If the virus is still present, a second round of treatment
may be recommended. In the vast majority of cases, no further
treatment is necessary beyond that.
strongly encourage you to be tested for hepatitis C. For
everyone born between 1945 and 1965, as well as anyone else
who may be at high risk for other reasons, being tested for
this virus is a crucial step in ensuring long-term health.