Contact: John Broom
The number of reported cases of Hepatitis C is on the rise, and Baby Boomers are among those with greater risk of having or contracting the disease.
Hepatitis C affects more than 3 million Americans over the age of 50. In Ohio, the number of reported cases of Hepatitis C has increased 400% over the past few years.
Ashtabula County Medical Center Family Medicine Specialist Catherine Bishop, DO, said Baby Boomers should be tested for the disease, which can lay dormant for years.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, joint pain, itchy skin, sore muscles, dark urine, and yellowish eyes. In advanced cases, cirrhosis of the liver occurs. Blood vessels begin expanding making the palms of your hand red. Clusters of blood vessels begin looking like tiny spiders. In severe cases, bleeding into the stomach can occur, and damage to the brain and nervous system could happen.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged all Americans born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested for the Hepatitis C virus.
Dr. Bishop said the first test is simple.
"We use a specific blood test that searches for the antibodies fighting against the Hepatitis C virus. If a positive result is shown, a follow-up test will search for other specific markers of the virus," she said.
Additionally, a liver biopsy may be needed, to see if there has been any damage done to the liver. An MRI test can show if there are signs of liver cancer.
When caught early enough, therapies can cure up to 75 percent of infections.
"The biggest problem is people don't know they have Hepatitis C," Dr. Bishop said. "It could be from past drug use, contact with infected blood, improperly disinfected tattoo needles, or multiple sex partners. The virus can lie dormant for 15 years or more. But it will eventually manifest itself."
Since Hepatitis C is transmittable to others, anyone who provides care for a family member should also be tested.
Many insurance companies are now covering Hepatitis C tests, and drug companies are creating better treatment options.
To learn more about any of the hepatitis viruses, visit www.acmchealth.org and search the health library for "Hep-C."
To schedule an appointment with an ACMC Family Medicine Specialist to discuss your risk or testing for hepatitis C, call 440-997-6969, or walk in at any ACMC Express Care location in Ashtabula, Conneaut, Geneva, or Jefferson.