Author: Michaela Wachal
About 2.7 million people have hepatitis C in the U.S. alone, according to HepC.com. While millions of Americans are living with this virus, many don’t understand how it affects their bodies or whether or not it can be cured. It’s normal to have a lot of questions. Hepatitis C, also called hep C or HCV, is a viral infection that affects your liver. Recent medical advancements have drastically improved the prognosis for chronic HCV, and many people are considered cured after treatment. Keep reading for answers to common HCV questions.
What Does My Liver Do?
The liver is a large organ located on the right side of your abdomen. Its main job is to filter your blood and remove toxins. Hepatitis may cause your liver to become inflamed and lead to other complications. If your liver isn’t working properly, your body may have a harder time processing vitamins and nutrients.
How did I get Hepatitis C?
HCV is transmitted directly from blood to blood contact but the virus can live outside of the body for days or even weeks. HCV is often spread through contaminated needles from tattoos, piercings, drug use or other injections. In some cases, the virus is spread through sex or from a mother to her child at birth.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends people born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for HCV. People born in this “baby boomer” generation have a greater risk because they may have been infected before medical equipment and procedures were adopted to prevent the spread of HCV. If you were born between 1945 and 1965 and are at risk for hepatitis, ask your doctor about being tested.
What Does the Hepatitis C Virus Do?
The HCV infection can live inside your body for years without causing any problems. Your symptoms may be minor or nonexistent at first. Over time, however, symptoms that are more serious may develop.
HCV can lead to serious liver damage such as scarring, cancer and even liver failure. Scarring on your liver, called cirrhosis, is a problem because it takes over and the normal, healthy liver tissue can’t function. If your liver scarring is from HCV, treating your condition may help improve your liver function. Cirrhosis increases your risk of liver cancer, so it’s important to get tested. For more information about cirrhosis and other HCV complications, visit the Mayo Clinic web page on Hepatitis C or talk to your doctor.
How is Hepatitis C Treated?
Acute hepatitis C is the initial phase. Many people who have acute HCV will become chronically infected. Chronic HCV is a long-term infection that can lead to serious health problems. Thanks to new treatment options, chronic HCV is usually curable. People being treated for chronic HCV are often prescribed antiviral medications that work to clear the virus from the body. If you are diagnosed with HCV, the length of your treatment and the medications you take will depend on the health of your liver, your unique diagnosis and other medical conditions.
Living with Hepatitis C
An HCV diagnosis can be intimidating, but making lifestyle changes may help. It’s important to take care of your liver. Making the choice to better manage stress and stay hydrated can help keep your liver healthy. Alcohol can make liver damage worse, so do not drink it if you’re diagnosed with HCV. Talk to your doctor or visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) website for resources that help you quit.
Talk to your Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS) pharmacist about all your medications. Certain medicines, including the ones you buy over the counter, can lead to liver damage. This can cause additional complications for someone with HCV. Your HPS pharmacist will work with you and your doctor to make sure your medications are helping you achieve the best possible outcomes.
HPS specializes in many chronic conditions, including HCV. You can contact a member of our team to learn more about how HPS supports patients throughout their HCV treatment. Healthcare providers can download a referral form from our website or visit the website at HVRXSolutions.com.
About the Author
Michaela Wachal is a clinical pharmacist with the Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions Center of Excellence (COE). She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. When asked about her career with HPS Michaela said, “I love working for HPS because we are truly one big phamily that strives to provide the best patient care possible.”
Outside of the office Michaela enjoys spending time with her family and friends, exercising, dancing and hanging out at the lake.