SEATTLE — EvergreenHealth's Dr. Diego Lopez de Castilla of Infectious Disease Care visited New Day Northwest to discuss the importance of getting screened for Hepatitis C, and the treatment options that are available.
"The majority of people with Hepatitis C will experience no symptoms," said Dr. Lopez de Castilla,
This is why screening for the virus is so important. If left untreated, it can lead to severe liver damage and even liver failure.
When patients experience symptoms, it can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, joint or muscle pain, and a yellowing of the eyes or skin. By the time symptoms are detected patients are often in advanced stages of liver disease.
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person, most commonly through the sharing of needles/syringes or sexual contact.
People born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely than other adults to be infected with Hepatitis C and are encouraged to get screened even if there are no symptoms present. The same applies to anyone who has received a blood transfusion prior to 1992, before blood banks standardized testing for the virus.
For some, the social perception of being diagnosed with Hepatitis can be more damaging than the virus itself, and erasing that stigma is a one of EvergreenHealth's goals.
There have been significant advances in treatment for Hepatitis C using “direct-acting” antiviral medications, which are 90% effective in curing the disease and result in fewer side effects. With proper care and diagnosis, it can be cured in 8 to 12 weeks of outpatient treatment.
If you haven't already been screened, Dr. Lopez de Castilla encourages you to request it from your primary care provider, especially if you were born between 1945 and 1965.