Naveen Reddy, MD
Board Certified Gastroenterologist
Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, and Wellington
The Burden of Hepatitis C
It is estimated that 150 million people worldwide have hepatitis C including 3-4 million people within the United States. It is the leading cause of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular (liver) cancer, and liver transplantation worldwide. However, it is estimated that half of those individuals in the United States are unaware of their diagnosis.
Risk Factors for Hepatitis C
Many people were infected unknowingly particularly prior to 1990 when there was no test for hepatitis C.
There are several risk factors:
Being born between 1945 and 1965
History of IV drug use
Having received a transfusion (particularly before 1990)
Intranasal drug use
Transmission during pregnancy
Abnormal liver enzymes
If you fall into one of those high-risk groups (particularly the "baby boomers" born between 1945 and 1965 who are largely overlooked) it is important to at least get screened with a hepatitis C antibody test. A positive test does not mean that you have active hepatitis C, but it means you need a work-up by a GI doctor.
Prior to 2013 treatment required use of interferon and ribavirin that required injections for 24 to 48 weeks and were associated with depression, suicidality, anemia, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. As a result of that era, many people are hesitant to even consider being treated for hepatitis C. Fortunately those drugs are very rarely needed these days and with current treatments you can be treated for as little as 8 weeks with just one pill a day (no injections needed) and expect cure rates of over 95% (compared to around 50% before) with little or no side effects (certainly none of the major ones associated with the previous generation of therapies).