Getting tested for hepatitis is as easy as A, B, C
With hepatitis A’s big comebac k this year, Utahns are more aware than ever of this disease.
However, prevention efforts on the public level still have a long way to go. While people can get a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A, there is another form of the disease people should be aware of for which there is no vaccine.
Hepatitis C can affect anyone, but baby boomers and drug users have a higher risk for the disease. And since a person could be infected and not have any symptoms, it is important to get tested for the illness. Here are a few things you should know about hepatitis C:
Sharing needles puts you at risk, but so does your age
Hepatitis C can be spread through infected needle s, so sharing a needle or getting a tattoo or piercing with an infected needle puts you at risk. Getting donated blood or organs from an infected person can also spread the illness. Baby boomers — people who were born between 1945 and 1965 — have a higher risk of having hepatitis C, as is anyone who received blood or an organ before 1992.
You may not have any symptoms
Hepatitis C is an infamously stealthy disease: You could have hepatitis C and not know i t. Once the symptoms do manifest, though, you could experience fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, nausea and vomiting. If hepatitis C becomes a chronic infection, it can cause weakness and severe fatigue.
A test can tell you if you’ve been infected
If you are at risk of having hepatitis C, you should visit your doctor to get teste d. A blood test can tell you if you have ever been infected. If that test is positive, a follow-up test will determine if you currently have the infection.
Hepatitis C can be treated
If you have hepatitis C, it could be an acute or chronic condition. Acute infections may go away on their own and won’t need treatment. After six months, however, the infection may need to be treate d. The good news is that treatments have gotten much better in recent years, and 90 percent of patients will be cured of the disease with medication.
“There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but there are very effective drugs to treat it,” said Theresa Coffin, infection preventionist at Lakeside Special Care Cente r. “Even if people have not had any symptoms of the disease, it is important to be tested and begin treatment to prevent long-term liver damage.”
Don’t skip treatment, even if you aren’t sick
It is important to talk to your doctor about whether or not your illness needs treatmen t. Many people will not have any symptoms of hepatitis C, even if the infection is chronic, but they still need to be treated. If the infection does not go away on its own, it could cause permanent liver damage, which could lead to liver cancer.
You may not think you have hepatitis C, but if there is any chance you are at risk, you should take the time to be tested. It is better to get treatment than to wait until it is too late and your liver isn’t functioning properly.