Owners' Blog

Should Your Parent Be Tested for Hepatitis C?

By Hilary and Greg Eldridge

Hepatitis C (sometimes called Hep C) is a virus that affects the liver, causing it to become inflamed. Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are infected with Hep C, but many people don’t know they have it. If your parent is a member of the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1945 and 1965), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends they be tested.

Hep C Symptoms

Hep C is symptomless at the onset. However, over the years the virus harms the liver. Once the liver has been damaged, the symptoms are similar to those for liver disease. They may include:

  • Bruising.
  • Jaundice.
  • Bleeding easily.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Swollen legs.
  • Losing weight.
  • Dark urine.
  • Fatigue.
  • Feeling itchy.
  • Confusion.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Sleepy feeling.
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen.
  • Spider veins on the skin.

Hepatitis that goes untreated for years (chronic hepatitis) is the number one cause of liver cancer and liver transplants.

Baby Boomers at Higher Risk

Hep C is transmitted through the blood, so it is spread when a person comes into contact with blood from someone who is infected. There are many ways a person can contract Hep C, including drug use, unprotected sex, and blood transfusions. Hep C transmission was at its highest between the 1960s and 1980s. According to the CDC, Baby Boomers may be at a higher risk through a medical procedure before standard procedures for controlling infection were adopted. In the past, blood and blood products were not consistently screened for diseases, so people contracted blood borne diseases through transfusions. Unfortunately, because the disease can be contracted through drug use and unprotected sex, there is a stigma attached to it that sometimes leads people to avoid being tested.

Hep C is Curable

Hep C treatment used to involve receiving injections every week and taking oral medications. Many people could not take the medications because of their side effects or because of other health conditions. Today, the treatments have improved greatly. Most people can be cured of Hep C by taking an oral medication every day for between two and six months.

Testing for Hep C

Testing for Hep C requires only a simple blood test that checks for antibodies. If the test comes back positive, the person does not necessarily have Hep C, but they have been exposed to it at some point during their life. Positive results generally require a follow up test to see if the person is currently infected with Hep C. If a person receives a negative result, they do not have antibodies for Hep C. However, if they have recently been exposed to the virus, they will need to be tested again.

If you are concerned about your parent’s Hep C status, schedule an appointment for them to be tested. A senior care provider can drive them to the doctor’s office for the testing. If your parent does have Hep C, a senior care provider can remind them to take the medication prescribed by the doctor.


Sources
https://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/media/pdfs/factsheet-boomers.pdf
http://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/why-do-baby-boomers
http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/hepc-guide/digestive-diseases-hepatitis-c#1
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/home/ovc-20207365
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/symptoms-causes/dxc-20207369

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring senior care in Cumming, GA, please contact the caring staff at Home Helpers, call (678) 430-8511.