Hepatitis C is a virus that can damage the liver. Here's what you need to know about this infection, and how new treatments may hold a cure.
Hepatitis C begins as an acute infection and causes inflammation in the liver. In some people, it may last just a few weeks before the body fights it off. However, in up to 85 percent of people with acute hepatitis, the illness becomes chronic. That means the virus remains in the body and can last a lifetime. More than one million people in the U.S. living with the virus do not know they are infected.
People born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People born during those years are five times more likely to have the disease. Testing can be done with a simple blood test.
Over time, and if left untreated, Hepatitis C may lead to problems such as cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.
Hepatitis C often has no symptoms, so a person may be infected for years or decades without knowing it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when symptoms are present, they may include: fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
Treat it—cure it?
There are several medications available to treat hepatitis C.
“In the past, the virus has been difficult to treat with low cure rates. In the last few years many new, oral medications have become available with less side effects and very high cure rates.” States Dr. Ashley Kremer, physician at Heart of America Johnson Clinic.
One of these, Epclusa, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016. In a clinical trial, 99 percent of people who took the drug showed no evidence of having the virus in their blood after 12 weeks of treatment.
Talk to your provider at any three Heart of America Johnson Clinic locations if you have not had your screening for hepatitis C or to find out which treatment regimen may be best for you.