advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Should You Be Tested for Hepatitis C?

Is it true that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for hepatitis C? I don’t know anything about this disease or how you get it. What puts you at risk? And is it really important to be tested?

A
Answer (Published 4/24/2012)

Hepatitis C is viral infection of the liver that causes inflammation and tissue damage and can become chronic. It is a slowly progressing disease that can destroy liver cells and impair liver function even while infected people remain symptom-free. Typically, it is diagnosed after a patient complains of fatigue or abdominal tenderness or after routine blood tests show elevated liver enzyme levels. The virus that causes hepatitis C (HCV) is transmitted by infected blood (via blood transfusions, hemodialysis, or by sharing needles with intravenous drug users). Sexual transmission is possible, but the risk is low. Hepatitis C might also be transmitted via body piercing or tattoos, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have shown that this risk is not associated with licensed, regulated tattooing facilities. Research is needed to determine if transmission occurs when tattooing or piercing is done in unregulated settings with poor infection control practices.  

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Deaths from this disease are on the rise, and according to the CDC they have surpassed the 13,000 annual deaths caused by the AIDS virus. A study published in the February 21, 2012, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that three- fourths of the deaths from hepatitis C have occurred in individuals age 45 to 65.  The CDC estimates that one out of 33 baby boomers is infected - that adds up to 3.2 million Americans, half of whom don’t know they have picked up the virus. In view of these high numbers, the CDC is considering whether to recommend that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 have blood tests to see if they're infected.

In the past, treatment for this disease was a costly (up to $30,000), year-long ordeal with strong side effects including flu-like symptoms, depression, low blood cell counts, and in some cases, autoimmunity. Worse, treatment succeeded in only in 40 percent of all cases. Today’s treatment is somewhat better - studies have shown that either of two new drugs added to the old ones can boost cure rates to as high as 75 percent and shorten treatment to six months. However, costs remain extremely high; adding just one of the two new drugs can run $1,000 to $4,000 per week. 

Screening tests for hepatitis C look for antibodies to the virus. If the result is positive - antibodies are seen - it means you have been exposed to the virus and a second blood test can determine whether the virus is still present in your bloodstream. Deciding to be tested is an individual decision. The CDC can recommend testing all baby boomers, but that doesn’t mean you have to consent to it. If you’re certain that you never had a blood transfusion before 1992 and never shared needles with anyone - no matter how long ago - you may choose to forego testing. But if you have any doubts, I suggest discussing the pros and cons of testing and treatment with your physician.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here