In 2016, the CDC estimated there were 2.4 million people living in the United States with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C spreads through infected blood, so if you have been exposed and want to be tested or need treatment for chronic hepatitis C, visit George M. Halow, MD, PA, in El Paso, Texas. Dr. Halow has decades of experience as a gastroenterologist providing personalized and compassionate care for those with hepatitis C. To book an appointment, schedule an appointment online or call the office today.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral liver infection that can cause mild symptoms or become a long-term health concern. Acute HCV typically lasts for six months and may be cleared by the immune system naturally. However, 60-80% of infections become chronic and require treatment to prevent or reduce the risk of permanent liver damage.
If left untreated, you may develop liver cirrhosis or liver failure, both of which can be life-threatening.
It takes two weeks to six months after you’re exposed to HCV to develop the disease. In 80% of cases, patients don’t experience any symptoms though the infection can still damage their liver.
For those with symptoms, you can experience:
If left untreated and you develop chronic HCV, you may experience symptoms later that develop gradually or flare up when your immune system isn’t functioning well.
The hepatitis C virus causes HCV. It’s transmitted when blood from an infected person enters the body of a healthy person and infects them.
This most commonly occurs when people share needles or other equipment to prepare or use drugs. It can also happen during blood transfusions, though this is less common in the United States due to strict screening procedures.
Dr. Halow uses a two-step test to determine if you have HCV. The first test is a blood test that looks for anti-HCV antibodies in your blood. If you have these antibodies, it means you’ve been infected and your immune system is trying to fight off the infection by producing antibodies.
If you have anti-HCV antibodies, Dr. Halow orders a follow-up nucleic acid test. This test determines if you have a chronic infection. Based on your test results, Dr. Halow determines the best course of treatment for you.
Some cases of HCV require routine monitoring to see if your immune system can fight off the virus. If your immune system can’t, Dr. Halow prescribes appropriate antiviral medications to fight off the infection. For chronic HCV, you may need to take these medications long-term to avoid liver damage.
To be screened for hepatitis C, schedule a visit online or by phone with Dr. Halow now.