The liver is by no means the most glamorous organ. The heart gets the glory of pumping blood throughout the body. The brain controls function and thought. The lungs provide oxygen that allows the body to run smoothly. The liver is the waste treatment plant of the body. It removes toxins, it breaks down fats, and it manufactures bile. Its functions help to store nutrients and improve the immune system. While its work is not pretty, the liver keeps our bodies' systems clean and pure. Without it, none of the other organs would be able to perform their jobs.
A Hepatitis C screening helps protect and promote liver health.
With such important work, taking care of the liver is essential. However there is a disease that can affect liver health with no apparent signs or symptoms, and this disease affects a much larger percentage of seniors. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Baby Boomers are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C. This infection targets the liver, preventing it from functioning optimally and threatening the individuals' health and well-being. For all infected individuals, and for seniors especially, diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C is essential. Learn more about Hepatitis C in this informative video by Barbara Turner MD, from University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that is often spread through blood contact with an infected person. If left untreated, Hepatitis C can cause liver inflammation. As time goes on, scar tissue begins to develop. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this build up of scar tissue increases an individual's risk for cirrhosis or liver cancer. If significant damage is done, a liver transplant may be necessary.
When diagnosed early, Hepatitis C can be treated and negative health effects minimized.
Baby boomers make up an estimated two-thirds of undiagnosed cases of Hepatitis C. According to estimates by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 2.7 million people unknowingly have Hepatitis C. Of these 2.7 million people, two-thirds are estimated to be seniors.
Why are so many more Baby Boomers infected?
Before 1992, blood transfusions were not screened. This means that there is a greater risk of infection in someone who had blood transfusions before 1992. For Baby Boomers, who have a higher likelihood of having a blood transfusion during that time, it is more likely they have unknowingly contracted Hepatitis C.
It is also important to note that the longer someone lives with Hepatitis C, the more damage is done to the liver. A damaged liver means decreased filtration of toxins and increased vulnerability to life-threatening diseases. This is why testing is important. Once identified, Hepatitis C can be treated and other, more lethal, diseases avoided. For more on the importance of Hepatitis C screenings, Dr. Barbara J. Turner provides additional information in this mmLearn.org caregiver video.
What Baby Boomers and Caregivers Should Know
All Baby Boomers should have a Hepatitis C screening
to ensure that their liver is healthy and functioning optimally.
Hepatitis C often has no symptoms. This means that it is possible to live with Hepatitis C for years without any knowledge of the disease. For this reason, all Baby Boomers and anyone who had blood transfusions prior to 1992 should be tested.
Hepatitis C is diagnosed with a simple blood test. mmLearn.org provides a caregiver video with tips on scheduling an appointment and talking to a physician effectively. This video may help caregivers find the best way to ask for the Hepatitis C screening for their patient. Once the results are in, the physician will inform the patient of the diagnosis. If the individual is diagnosed with Hepatitis C, then further tests will be performed to determine the damage done to the liver.
The severity of the damage can be identified with a new ultrasound-based scanner. This scanner, the Fibroscan, determines how stiff the liver is. As scar tissue forms, it causes the liver to stiffen. The stiffer the liver is, the more scar tissue has already formed. Some doctors may perform a liver biopsy instead of, or in addition to the Fibroscan.
While early detection and treatment is helpful in limiting liver damage, Hepatitis C can be treated, regardless of the length of infection. Taking a senior to get tested is just the first step in ensuring liver health and that the liver can continue to do its messy, but immensely important, job.
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