Breaking the Silence of Hepatitis C: The Importance of Treating a Disease that May Not Show Symptoms
Travel, music festivals, ziplining, touring breweries with friends — Tim Steele always enjoyed a life full of adventure. His health was generally good, but before partially retiring from his career as a computer salesman he decided to schedule some checkups for peace of mind. That's when he was surprised to learn he had hepatitis C.
“It was out of the blue,” Tim says. “I didn’t have any symptoms. I had no clue. If I had not gone to the doctor, I’d just be sitting around with hep C.”
Although surprised from the diagnosis, he was ready to tackle his health problems and learned there were treatments available. “Knowing that there were treatments available that could cure hepatitis C, helped ease my anxiety about the diagnosis,” he says.
In the U.S., approximately 3.4 million people are infected with chronic hepatitis C.[i] Nearly half of Americans with hepatitis C virus (HCV) do not even know they have it, as the disease often does not exhibit symptoms.[ii],[iii] Even among patients diagnosed with HCV, many choose not to seek out care because they are symptom-free, or for other reasons such as lack of access to treatment or fear of side effects.[iv]
It’s important to talk to your doctor, even if you are not experiencing symptoms, as chronic hepatitis C is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer, and a primary reason for liver transplants.[ii] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic liver disease in people with hepatitis C can progress slowly, without any signs or symptoms, over several decades.[v]
Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available that can cure people with hepatitis C, meaning the virus is not detectable in the blood months after treatment ends.[vi] Tim found the treatment that worked for him and received blood tests showing the hep C virus was not detectable.
“I want to share my journey in the hopes it will help others diagnosed with hepatitis C,” says Tim.
Tim’s friends and family were also relieved to know there were treatment options available. In fact, loved ones play an important role in helping those with a positive hepatitis C diagnosis get the care they need. Keep in mind, people with hepatitis C may need physical, emotional and spiritual assistance.[vii] Caregivers can help by:
- Encouraging loved ones to take action
- Offering to listen
- Providing advice, hope and support
- Managing and accompanying your loved one to medical appointments
- Encouraging loved ones to keep their liver healthy
Go to HepC.com or call 1-800-HEPC-INFO (1-844-4372-4636) for more information and tools that can help you start a conversation with your doctor and get the support you need. While on the site, you can find a doctor that specializes in treating hepatitis C.
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[i] Messina JP, Humphreys I., Flaxman A., et.al. Global distribution and prevalence of hepatitis C virus genotypes. Hepatology. 2015;61(1): 77-87 (and supplementary appendix).
[ii] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Viral Hepatitis in the United States: Data and Trends. Available at https://www.hhs.gov/hepatitis/learn-about-viral-hepatitis/data-and-trends/index.html. Accessed on November 26, 2018.
[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm Accessed on November 26, 2018.
[iv] American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. HCV Guidance: Recommendations for Testing, Managing, and Treating Hepatitis C. https://www.hcvguidelines.org/evaluate/testing-and-linkage. Accessed November 26, 2018.
[v] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for Health Professionals. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm Accessed November 26, 2018.
[vi] World Health Organization: Hepatitis C – Key Facts – July 2018. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c.
[vii] American Liver Foundation. Tips for Caregivers. Available at https://liverfoundation.org/caregivers/resources/tips-for-caregivers/. Accessed November 26, 2018.