While medications are available to cure hepatitis C, millions of Americans continue to live with this infection, risking severe liver damage. Because hepatitis C doesn’t show symptoms, many of those people are unaware they have the disease. Dr. Jeffrey Fenyves and Dr. Stephen Fry at Tri-Cities Gastroenterology can easily test for hepatitis C infection and provide effective treatment. Please call one of their offices in Kingsport, Johnson City, and Elizabethton, Tennessee, or use the online booking feature to schedule an appointment for hepatitis C testing.
Hepatitis C Q & A
What causes hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation, which is most often caused by a viral infection but can also develop from autoimmune disease, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Of the five viruses responsible for hepatitis -- labeled A, B, C, D, and E -- hepatitis B and C cause chronic disease.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is one of the most common bloodborne viral infections in the United States. It’s transmitted through contact with contaminated blood or blood products, such as a blood transfusion or a contaminated needle.
Are you at risk for hepatitis C?
The group with the highest risk of HCV includes everyone born between 1945 and 1965. You may also be at a higher risk if you:
Are a healthcare worker exposed to infected blood
Have used illicit drugs
Had long-term hemodialysis treatment
Received a piercing or tattoo with unsterile equipment
Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
Were born to a mother who had hepatitis C
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Acute and chronic HCV typically go undiagnosed because they don’t manifest symptoms. HCV begins with an acute infection that may develop into chronic disease. Over time, your liver gradually becomes damaged, then you generate one or more of the following:
Bleeding or bruising easily
Jaundice (yellow discoloration of your skin and eyes)
Fluid buildup in your abdomen
Confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech
How is hepatitis C treated?
If you’re in a high-risk category, it’s essential to get a blood test to determine whether you have HCV. The longer your infection goes undiagnosed, the higher your risk of developing cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure. If you test positive for HCV, your doctor may order additional tests to evaluate liver damage.
Treatment for HCV includes:
Several antiviral medications are available to clear the virus from your body. Most medication regimens take at least 8-12 weeks to cure HCV.
If your liver is significantly damaged, you may need a liver transplantation. A liver transplant doesn’t cure HCV, however, so antiviral therapy often follows surgery.
Don’t hesitate to call Tri-Cities Gastroenterology if you have any questions about hepatitis C, or book an appointment online.