Baby Boomers at Risk for this Silent Disease
Most people who have hepatitis C, a viral infection of the liver, have no symptoms until the disease has caused significant liver damage. That’s why it’s important for those at higher risk—including Baby Boomers, people born between 1945 and 1965—to be screened. Left untreated, hepatitis C can put you at higher risk for cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and eventual liver cancer. The good news is that new treatments are available that involve only swallowing pills for two to six months, with a 90 percent cure rate. The oral medication has almost no side effects.
MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital’s new Hepatitis Clinic makes it easy for patients who have hepatitis C to get these effective new treatments. Open every Wednesday morning in the Good Health Center, the clinic offers experienced care, a comfortable setting and convenient parking. Lawrence Mills, Jr., MD, chief of Gastroenterology at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, explains, “The new treatments are fabulous. In March 2016, the FDA approved a new treatment geared to those on dialysis and by late June of this year, a new medication will be available that treats all of the different types of hepatitis C.”
He adds, “I evaluate people who are positive for hepatitis C and send their data to a specialty pharmacy that contacts their insurance company to see if they will pay for the new therapies. The good news is that insurers will pay for the vast majority of patients with chronic hepatitis C.” MedStar Health’s liver disease specialists also offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for all types of acute and chronic liver disease.
In addition to Baby Boomers, people at higher risk for hepatitis C include those with: tattoos, HIV and intravenous drug use, as well as patients on dialysis and healthcare providers. Ask your doctor about getting screened for this ‘silent’ disease.
Signs of Chronic Hepatitis C
While you may have no symptoms, common ones include:
|Itching, skin rash||Jaundice (yellowing)|
|Loss of appetite||Nausea|
Even if you don't have symptoms, you're still contagious and may pass the virus on to other people.
This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.