You have likely heard of hepatitis, but you may not realize there are actually three types of the disease, and one type, Hepatitis C, that can lead to serious liver issues.
The good news is that the disease is treatable, but you have to know you have it to be able to take the necessary steps for treatment. Here at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants, we deal with many hepatitis C patients, so we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take this problem seriously.
Here’s what you need to know about the link between hepatitis C and liver disease.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, often caused by a virus. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are the most common types in the U.S., each caused by a different virus. The CDC calls hepatitis C one of the deadliest infectious diseases in America, with more than 14,000 death certificates listing it as an underlying or contributing cause of death in 2019.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood from someone infected with the virus. This most often occurs as drug users share needles with other people. Many people don’t even know they have the disease, as symptoms can take years to appear. Those symptoms can include nausea, fatigue, bruising easily, and jaundice as the disease progresses.
The first six months after infection are called acute hepatitis C; if your body does not naturally clear the disease in this time frame, it becomes chronic hepatitis C, which can last for decades.
How does it lead to liver disease?
The main problem with the virus remaining undetected is that it can be causing damage to your liver for years, which can lead to liver failure, cirrhosis (scarring), liver cancer, and even death. In fact, it’s the most common cause of liver transplantation in the U.S.
Once scar tissue begins to build up in the liver, it can progress to cirrhosis, which is extensive scarring that can keep areas of the liver from functioning properly. Left untreated, it will continue to spread until the liver no longer functions at all.
How can hepatitis C be treated?
Everyone 18 and older should be tested for hepatitis C at least once during their life. Pregnant women should be tested every pregnancy, and those who regularly inject and share needles should be tested regularly as well. There is no vaccine that can prevent you from getting hepatitis C.
Treatment is fairly easy — just eight to 12 weeks of oral therapy (taking pills), which cures more than 90% of acute and chronic hepatitis. Those who have chronic hepatitis C or cirrhosis should continue to be monitored by a doctor even after they’re cured of the disease, because they continue to have a risk of complications from advanced liver disease.
If you have hepatitis C or think you may be at risk for it, you need to seek treatment as soon as possible. Our professional team at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants will be able to provide the care and guidance you need. Just contact our office today to schedule an appointment!