(RxWiki News) We are taught to believe that if we are sick, we will feel ill. Alarmingly, this is not the case with hepatitis C, which can be present in the body for years without causing symptoms.
This fact, combined with the high rates of the disease among baby boomers, is leading officials to recommend screening for an entire generation.
May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month and organizers are stressing that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for hepatitis C.
"Talk to your doctor about a hepatitis test."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an organizer of the awareness month, the word hepatitis simply means an inflammation of the liver.
Several different viruses – most commonly hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C – are usually the cause of this inflammation.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can both lead to chronic infections and major liver issues, including liver disease and liver cancer. The CDC estimates that 15,000 deaths are caused in the US annually from a chronic condition connected to viral hepatitis.
According to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), almost 5.3 million Americans have chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C, but approximately 75 percent of these people are not aware they are infected.
According to the CDC, more than 75 percent of adults with a hepatitis C infection are baby boomers (born between the years 1945 and 1965). Like the rest of the population with hepatitis infections, most of them aren’t aware they are infected.
People with hepatitis C might not experience any symptoms for decades, but despite the patient not feeling ill, the virus could be contributing to long-term problems with the liver.
When symptoms are present, they can include fatigue, abdominal pain, fever, dark-colored urine, grey-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), joint pain and loss of appetite.
For people diagnosed with hepatitis C, treatment varies from patient to patient. Some may benefit from antiviral treatment while others don’t require any specific treatment. Doctors will work with individual patients to determine the best path.
The CDC recommends that all people with hepatitis C take extra care to discuss medications (prescription or over-the-counter), supplements and vitamins with their doctor, as some of these substances have the potential to damage the liver.
Alcohol can also cause harm to the liver and should be avoided.
“As baby boomers age, there is a greater chance that they will develop serious, life-threatening liver disease from hepatitis C. Testing people in this generation will help them learn if they are infected and get them into lifesaving care and treatment," reported the CDC.
"Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.”