Gastroenterologists located in Union City, TN & Martin, TN
An estimated 3-4 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C. As many as 75% of those with chronic hepatitis C don’t know they have the infection, which means the virus continues to damage their liver. Dr. Kofi Nuako at Advanced Gastroenterology encourages those at risk for hepatitis C to get a simple blood test to screen for the potentially severe problem. If you have questions or concerns about hepatitis C, please call the office in Union City, Tennessee, or use online booking to schedule an appointment.
Hepatitis C Q & A
What causes hepatitis C?
Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation, a condition that’s often caused by a viral infection but can also arise due to an autoimmune disease, toxins, drugs, and alcohol.
The viruses primarily responsible for hepatitis are labeled A, B, C, D, and E, so hepatitis is named according to the underlying virus. Out of those, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause long-term disease.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes one of the most common bloodborne viral infections. You can get hepatitis C through contact with contaminated blood or blood products, such as a blood infusion or a contaminated injection.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
HCV begins with an acute infection that may develop into chronic disease. Whether you have acute or chronic HCV, you may not experience symptoms until the virus causes significant liver damage.
When you develop symptoms, you may have one or more of the following:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of your skin and eyes)
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Ascites (fluid buildup in your abdomen)
- Confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech
Are you at risk for hepatitis C?
You may have a higher risk if you:
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Are a healthcare worker exposed to infected blood
- Have used illicit drugs
- Got a piercing or tattoo with unsterile equipment
- Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
If you’re at a high risk for hepatitis C, it’s essential to get a blood test to determine if you have HCV. The longer HCV goes untreated, the more likely you are to develop complications such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure.
How is hepatitis C treated?
When a blood test is positive for HCV, noninvasive imaging tests may be ordered to evaluate liver damage. After you've been tested, your potential treatment options for HCV include:
Advanced antiviral medications block the virus’ ability to multiply, which clears the infection and effectively cures HCV in many patients after about 12 weeks on medication.
If your liver is damaged, you may need a liver transplantation. Surgery is usually combined with antiviral therapy to ensure the virus is eliminated.
If you’re at risk for HCV or you have any questions about hepatitis, call Advanced Gastroenterology or book an appointment online.