“Hepatitis” means, simply, “inflammation of the liver”. Many things can inflame the liver such as heavy alcohol use, certain drugs, or bacteria. There are, however, three distinct viral types of hepatitis, namely, A, B, and C; each caused by a different virus.
Hepatitis A is an acute problem which usually improves without treatment. Hepatitis B is more tenacious—but can typically be resolved with healthy living practices, plenty of rest, and, for some, the use of anti-viral drugs. (Thankfully, a preventative vaccine exists for types A and B.)
Compared to A and B, hepatitis type C, is a far more devastating disease. It can be present in the body for decades, slowly attacking the liver without its host ever being aware! Eventually though, if left untreated, hepatitis C will badly scar the liver (cirrhosis) or lead to liver cancer. The only possible means of remission/recovery require the patient to undergo a nearly year-long treatment protocol with a combination of two very strong drugs, interferon and ribavirin.
Hepatitis C is transmitted by the blood—so many may have unknowingly contracted it through a blood transfusion or from prior intravenous drug use. (Sadly, all it takes is one time to possibly have become infected!) For these reasons, the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control are urging all “baby boomers”—those born between the years 1946 and 1964—to have their blood tested for this silent, but very deadly disease.
Over the past decade two of my friends were diagnosed with hepatitis C through a routine blood test which, at first, showed their liver enzymes to be elevated. A follow up test, looking specifically for hepatitis, revealed the presence of this dreaded disease. Neither of my baby boomer friends had a clue that anything was wrong with them!
Attention all “boomers”: If you’ve received a blood transfusion before 1992, or you have used intravenous drugs in the past (even once!), PLEASE, get yourself tested—the sooner the better. The earlier you catch Hepatitis C, the better your chances are of saving your liver, and subsequently, your life!
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